In previous blogs, we have addressed the entitlement of divorcing spouses to retirement benefits accumulated during the marriage. In circumstances when the parties have accumulated, during the marriage, savings in a retirement savings plan such as a 401(k) Plan, 403(b) Plan, 457 Plan, Thrift Savings Plan, or IRA, the division of these assets is relatively simple. The present day value of the retirement asset can be verified through the most recent statement or by simply logging on to the account to check the balance. In determining the marital interest, the Court will consider the amount of that value that has accumulated during the marriage. That amount is generally marital property and will be considered in the division of assets in the overall marital estate.
However, in cases where a spouse has accumulated interest in a defined benefit pension plan the Court’s consideration of the value of that marital asset is not as simple. When a spouse accumulates an interest in a pension plan, the following three stages are to be considered in the accumulation of that asset: an interest in the pension plan that has not vested; an interest in the pension plan that has vested but has not matured to the point where the spouse is entitled to receive payment from the Plan; and the final stage, when a Plan is vested and has matured to the point where the spouse is entitled to receive the specific benefits defined in the Plan. In the final stage, the benefit is most often paid out in a specific monthly installments beginning when the employee/spouse reaches a certain age and/or has accumulated a specific amount of years of service time.