If you are preparing for a divorce and you are among the more than 600,000 union members and union-represented workers in Ohio, protecting your pension is understandably among your top priorities. You put in the time and effort to earn your pension, and you want to make sure it will remain yours after your divorce.
So, will it?
3 Key Questions for Union Pension Owners in Ohio
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward and easy answer. Whether you are entitled to keep 100 percent of your pension or your spouse may be entitled to a portion of it depends on a number of different factors that are all unique to your own personal work and family circumstances. In order to understand what will happen to your pension in your divorce, you will need to discuss three key questions with your divorce attorney:
1. When did you earn your pension?
If you happened to earn your entire pension before you got married, this is generally the best-case scenario. As a general rule, any assets you own prior to getting married are considered your “separate property,” and they are not subject to distribution in your divorce.
On the other hand, if you earned all of your pension after you got married, then the default rule in Ohio is that your entire pension will be deemed “marital property.” This means that it will be subject to “equitable distribution” along with you and your spouse’s other jointly-owned assets.
What if you earned part of your pension after you tied the knot? In that scenario, only the portion that you earned during your marriage would be subject to equitable distribution. So, if your pension is currently worth $200,000 and it was worth $50,000 when you got married, $150,000 would potentially be included in your marital estate for purposes of equitable distribution.
2. What other marital property do you and your spouse own?
If you and your spouse own other high-value assets (such as your home or a 401(k) or IRA), it may be the case that you will be able to keep your entire union pension in exchange for giving up your right to other jointly-owned property. For example, suppose you earned a $200,000 pension and your spouse accumulated $200,000 in a 401(k) while you were married. Both of these would be considered “marital property,” but it may make the most sense for you each to just keep your own retirement savings.
Keep in mind, however, that an “equitable” distribution will not necessarily be a 50-50 split. There are a number of factors that could weigh in favor of an unequal (but still “equitable”) distribution.
3. Does your spouse want your pension?
Related to the topic of giving up your interest in one marital asset in exchange for another is this very practical question: Does your spouse want your pension? If not, you will likely have a much easier time protecting it your divorce. If your spouse has a greater interest in keeping something else – the family home, for example – you may be able to negotiate a property settlement agreement that allows you both to keep the assets that you want the most.
Speak with a Cleveland Divorce Attorney at Laubacher & Co.
If you are considering a divorce and would like to speak with an attorney about the options that are available for protecting your union pension, contact the Cleveland, OH law offices of Laubacher & Co. for a free consultation. To speak with one of our experienced divorce attorneys in confidence, please call (440) 336-8687 or request an appointment online. Evening and weekend appointments are available.