Protecting your pension during a divorce in Washington

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2022 | Family Law |

Divorce is always an awful time, and one of the worst parts of it is dividing assets between the two parties. If you’re in Washington and work in an occupation that qualifies you for a pension, that pension is one of the most significant assets in your life. And naturally, you’ll want to protect it as best you can in a divorce.

Understanding how the law treats a pension during a divorce puts you in a position to look for the most favorable outcome. Fortunately, there are a few options at your disposal in negotiating the best deal possible with your former spouse.

Options for protecting your pension

The unwelcome news is that a pension is always considered a joint asset, meaning that your spouse has an equal claim to it despite coming from your occupation. But there are a few caveats worth noting.

An important distinction is that your spouse is entitled to half of any pension benefits accrued throughout your marriage, not necessarily the full pension. So, for example, if you’d been accruing a pension for 30 years but had only been married for ten years, your spouse would only have a claim on the accrual during those ten married years.

Finally, you should understand precisely what type of pension you have and how it works regarding spouses. For example, some pensions offer options for either lump-sum payments or an annuity, and some offer a survivor’s benefit that pays out after their passing.

Negotiate for the pension

Frequently, your best option may be to negotiate a deal with your spouse in which they get some other assets in return for allowing you to keep your full pension. For example, a typical value might be to offer to grant them ownership of your communal home, leaving you with retirement in return.

Depending on the pension type, you may be able to create a deal with your spouse that offers them some benefit in exchange for you maintaining control of the pension. You’ll be required to come to some deal or agreement with your ex-spouse regarding the pension. But with some knowledge and planning, you can find a compromise that works for you.