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Can my former partner take half of my pension?

Many Americans plan for retirement for much of their adult lives. They invest, save and work long schedules to ensure their retirement will be luxurious and enjoyable. However, divorce may easily disrupt any retirement plans they have.

When it comes to retirement, a pension fund is a large part of the savings. If a former partner tries to take half of that fund, you may have to extend your working age or find creative ways to recover those funds. But can your partner even take away any of your retirement benefits?

Property division and pension funds

Each state addresses property division differently. In California, the court system adheres to community property, which means a judge divides all marital property equally instead of fairly. It makes the classification process crucial for determining which assets are marital property.

In the case of shared property, anything shared between two partners is considered a marital asset. Common examples include houses, automobiles, bank accounts, financial portfolios and life insurance. Marital property also includes retirement benefits and pension plans.

In California, a former spouse may submit a specific court order called a domestic relations order (QDRO). The paperwork in QDRO defines the distribution of retirement accounts and any alternate payees. There are circumstances when a QDRO is not applicable, such as a prenuptial agreement or previous mediation.

QDRO requires additional fees and costs to file, but the filing spouse covers those fees and is responsible for any penalties if they withdraw benefits early. However, several details can make a QDRO more complicated – especially if the couple disagrees on division.

Partners who are concerned about their pension plan during a divorce should advise with a financial advisor or an attorney to determine the best strategy to protect their retirement savings. Otherwise, plan on splitting your pension with your former partner.

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