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How is a pension divided in a California divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2021 | Divorce

California is a community state, meaning everything you acquired or saved while married belongs to you and your spouse, including your pensions and other retirement benefits. If your divorce is imminent, you should have an idea of how the court will split your assets so that you can prepare adequately. Here’s how a pension is typically divided in a divorce.

Divorce in California

During a divorce in California, your spouse will likely get half of your marital assets. Your marital assets are all the money you saved, your investments, stock options, real estate, debt, and any other thing you obtained while married. On the other hand, anything you had before marriage, as well as gifts and inheritances, are separate property.

Dividing pensions

The first thing California courts will do when dividing your pension is to determine which part of it is separate and which is marital property. The separate part of your pension is the amount you earned before officially marrying your spouse. For example, if you earned your pension for 10 years, married, and then continued earning for 20 years of your marriage, the court will not touch your contributions for the first 10 years.

For example, if you earned $200,000 in a pension in those 20 years, your spouse is entitled to half of it. However, this entitlement could be affected if you signed a premarital or post-marital agreement that defined how you will go about your retirement benefits upon divorce.

Ways to deal with your pensions

Besides equally dividing the communal part of your pension to your spouse, you can choose other forms of settlement. For instance, you can give your spouse another property that is of the same value as the share they could have received from the pension. You can also decide to pay them their monthly share from the pension instead of making a one-time withdrawal.

Make sure you get the accurate valuation of your pension as well as all the other assets and debts you have during your divorce. After you determine which part of it is separate and marital, you can request your fair share.