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Will divorce cost you your ex’s retirement benefits?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | Divorce

You are interested in getting a divorce. The only issue that is holding you back is financial. Your spouse has a high-paying job and is currently earning an excellent pension plan, while you don’t work at all. You were planning to use that pension to retire together, probably sometime in the next decade.

Your concern, then, is that you have not done any of your own retirement planning or saving, and now you don’t have time to start. If you ask your spouse for a divorce, does this mean that you’re going to lose all access to the pension plan you were counting on for your retirement years? Will you essentially be forced to stay in your marriage just for financial security?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order 

The reality is that retirement benefits, such as a pension plan or an employer-sponsored retirement plan, can be divided in divorce. This can even happen if the person hasn’t retired yet and so they are not currently receiving monthly payments under that plan.

To do this, you use a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). The court issues this order, which specifies the percentage that each person should receive. It splits up the pension plan in advance. The court will consider things like the length of your marriage or how long your spouse has been working at that job and earning the pension.

For example, the court may determine that you should receive 40% of your ex’s pension plan. Ten years from now, when they retire, they will have to begin paying you this percentage, even though you will have been divorced for years. 

In this sense, a QDRO can protect your pension benefits and your retirement plans, and this is why it’s so important to know what legal steps to take during a divorce.