How to Negotiate Pension Rights in a Divorce

by Anna Assad
Your state's property laws may govern pension rights.

Your state's property laws may govern pension rights.

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You might have rights to your spouse's pension plan during divorce. State divorce laws and the pension plan's rules commonly decide what you're entitled to receive. Some states consider pensions martial property, making the funds subject to the state's property division laws. Other states don't allow a spouse to touch the other spouse's pension, or only consider it under certain circumstances. Negotiating your rights to your spouse's pension during a divorce helps you get what you're entitled to receive; however, you must do some research first, so you don't lose out.

Step 1

Check state divorce laws. Write down the laws that apply to your case.

Step 2

Check the retirement plan's rules. Contact the plan's administrator -- usually the payroll or human resources supervisor at your spouse's place of employment -- and ask for information about the plan. Make copies of plan information you have, if any. Write down the rules that apply to your case.

Step 3

Estimate the current value of the pension. Check the pension plan documents for the current value of the pension, usually determined by the length of your spouse's employment from the date he became eligible for the pension.

Step 4

Estimate the future value of the pension. Review the pension plan documents to calculate a total value for the pension. Consider your spouse's expected retirement age -- typically 65 -- and life expectancy. Life expectancy is around 78 at time of publication, but race, location, current age and gender impact life expectancy. Multiply the monthly payment amount your spouse will receive at retirement age by the number of months he's expected to live after he starts collecting to get an estimate.

Step 5

Make a settlement offer using your notes on state laws, plan rules and your estimates. Consider what you're actually entitled to receive and the pension's values when making an offer. Include references to your estimated values, state laws and the plan rules to support your offer. Review any counteroffers from your spouse as needed.