Dividing Pensions in a Massachusetts Divorce

  • Sep 11 2019

Q: Will my spouse get half of my pension if we divorce?

Millennial newlyweds getting divorced in Massachusetts may not be overly concerned over what happens to their pensions or retirement accounts in a divorce (if they even have such accounts yet). But for their grandparents and couples who are older with substantial accumulated retirement savings – especially those who’ve been married for decades – there’s a reason for concern when untying the knot. 

In Massachusetts, marital property is divided during a divorce following principles of equitable distribution – which means whatever property was acquired by the couple during their marriage will be divided equitably, or fairly, but not necessarily equally. Generally, property that was owned individually before marriage and certain other properties acquired individually during the marriage (like gifts and inheritances) remain the separate property of each spouse (as long as not subsequently co-mingled).

What about pensions and retirement accounts?

How pensions and retirement accounts are handled in a divorce can be complicated. It’s not uncommon for married Baby Boomers to have amassed significant wealth in their pensions over their lifetime of working while their spouse typically stayed home to raise the children. Now in their twilight years, divorce disrupts financial expectations and the non-employee spouse (who may not have been educated or have job skills or may not be able to find employment to sustain them after the divorce) necessitates dividing that pension fund as well as addressing the issue of spousal support or alimony. If it becomes necessary to invade the pension of an employee-spouse for the benefit of the non-employee spouse, a court order known as a qualified domestic relations order (or “QDRO”) is required. 

But can that be avoided?

Pensions don’t always have to be divided. Sometimes, both spouses may have comparable pensions and may agree to each keep their own pension intact. Other times, couples may agree that the non-employee spouse will take a share of other jointly-held marital property equivalent to their share of the pension in lieu of invading the pension (i.e. the non-employee spouse may keep the marital home while the employee-spouse retains their full pension). Of course, each couple’s financial situation and options are different. 

Contact the Hebert Law Offices Today 

If you are considering getting divorced in Massachusetts, have been served with divorce papers, or have any questions about any family law matter, the Hebert Law Offices team can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation

From our office in Worcester, Massachusetts, we pride ourselves in offering award-winning, aggressive, and compassionate legal representation to clients throughout Massachusetts, including but not limited to Norfolk and Middlesex counties.

Posted in: Divorce


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