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Do pensions get divided up in a California divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2023 | Community Property Division

People in Carlsbad who worked in certain fields or served in the military have a pension waiting for them when they retire. A pension can help you afford retirement, but it also could become an issue if you get divorced and your spouse wants a share of it.

California is a community property state. Virtually all community property, or assets you and your spouse acquired during your marriage, must get divided between divorcing spouses 50-50. This could include a pension. It does not matter that only one spouse paid into the pension plan. The fact that the pension was earned during the marriage generally means it counts as community property, not separate property that the pension-earning spouse gets to keep.

Leveraging a pension in property division

A pension could be part of the property division negotiation strategy you and your divorce attorney develop. For example, the pension-earning spouse could agree to keep it in exchange for other community property, such as a greater share of the retirement savings in a 401(k). However, transferring all or part of a pension in divorce is complicated. It requires the judge to approve a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or Domestic Relations Order (DRO). Again, your attorney can prepare this order for you to ensure it is accurate and complete.

Your pension (or your ex’s) is likely just one piece of the community property issue. Everyone’s needs are different, but most divorcing people want a property settlement that leaves them in as close of financial circumstances to their married life as possible. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer gives you the best chance of achieving this.