The longer your marriage has lasted, the more financially dependent you may be on your spouse. Couples typically commingle all of their assets and income. In many families, one spouse may put more of a focus on the family than on their career by staying home or only working part time.
Stay-at-home spouses and those who focus less on their careers during their marriage may find themselves at a financial disadvantage if they choose to file for divorce. The Pennsylvania family courts want to do everything they can to protect dependent spouses during and after a divorce.
A significant portion of what divorce entails is the division of your various assets and debts. The courts try to find a fair way to split things up that will work for everyone. Depending on the circumstances, retirement accounts or pensions often wind up included in the pool of marital assets that the courts attempt to split up equitably.
When isn’t a retirement account or pension subject to division?
There are a number of circumstances in which a spouse may not have a claim to a share of a retirement account or pension. One of these circumstances would be an incredibly short marriage where very few if any deposits occurred.
Typically, only the amount of retirement funds accrued during the marriage itself is divisible in a divorce. For marriages that last only a few years, the total amount of retirement funds deposited during the marriage may be minimal.
It’s also possible that you and your ex agreed to certain terms in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that specifically earmarked the pension or retirement account as separate property. Provided that the agreement holds up in court, the dependent spouse may have no claim to those assets.
When are retirement funds subject to division?
As previously mentioned, any amounts accrued during the marriage, including employer-matching amounts, can wind up divided by the courts. The longer the marriage, the more likely it is that the amount in question will be a substantial percentage of the total account value.
Both tax-sheltered retirement accounts and employer pensions, including military and civilian pensions, can wind up divided as part of a Pennsylvania divorce. Dependent spouses often have a strong claim to share in the earned assets and benefits their spouse accrued during their marriage.