Pensions and divorce can get complicated. However, since a pension may be one of the biggest financial assets that you need to address, it’s important to break it down a bit and examine your rights.

First and foremost, if you’re getting a pension, your spouse may have a right to at least some of that money. They can claim it with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). This is an official order stating what they should receive; for instance, they could get 30% of each monthly payment once the pension begins paying out.

One thing to remember is that money from before the marriage does not count as marital property. Perhaps you got the job 10 years before you got married. You were earning those pension benefits for a decade before tying the knot. Even if your spouse gets half of the benefits that were earned during the marriage, that would not be half of the total benefits.

Put it this way: It takes you 20 years at your company to earn a pension. Ten years happen before marriage and 10 years after marriage. You get divorced just as you retire. If your monthly payment is $4,000, your spouse was only there while you earned half of it, or $2,000. Moreover, they only get half of those earnings, with the other half going to you. That means that you’ll get $3,000 each month and your ex will get $1,000.

This is a simplified example. Make sure you know exactly what legal options you have.

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