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Pensions and Divorce: How are They Divided?


Retirement assets are a significant concern for most when a divorce is pending. After all, you’ve worked hard for your pension, or are young and are planning to contribute to it for a long time for long-term security. So, when you decide to get divorced, it’s natural to wonder: how is the pension going to get divided?

It’s Unlikely Your Entire Pension is Marital…

Many individuals begin their job before they get married. Some have had a pension for a decade or more by the time they decide to get married. And, while this doesn’t mean that your pension is entirely safe from your spouse, it does mean that a portion of it will be considered non-marital property and the rest will likely be marital, subject to principles of equitable division.

Remember, equitable division doesn’t mean it will be divided 50/50, either. Instead, the court will consider a number of factors – if you and your spouse cannot agree on how it’s to be divided – to do so effectively.

However, there’s another problem with pensions: many are non-vested at the time of divorce. So, how are you supposed to place a value on such an asset?

Valuation of Pensions in Divorce

Illinois case law holds that some pensions cannot be valued at the time of divorce, and because it’s so difficult to value the asset, it isn’t subject to equitable division. This is common in cases where the individual with the pension is so young, or is so far away from being able to take benefits from the pension, that the property is too tenuous to essentially slap a value on.

Cases since then have proposed a number of different ways to either value the pension, or to reserve the issue for a later date, so the spouse who doesn’t hold the pension still gets his or her fair share. Specifically, there are two opposing methods:

  1. Valuation Through Actuarial Evidence – In some cases, the amount of the pension can be derived through actuarial evidence. This means that the court will find the present value of the interest and multiply it by a fraction whose numerator is the number of years or months of the marriage and whose denominator is the total number of years or months during which benefits were accumulated prior to divorce.
  2. Reserved Jurisdiction Approach – Illinois courts may also use the reserved jurisdiction approach to essentially divide the pension once the value can be derived through actuarial evidence. Typically, the court will find the percentage interest each spouse has, and will then divide the property according to those percentages at a later date. This way, the court isn’t guessing what the pension is worth until it vests, or is closer to vesting and the value is more certain.

Are You Concerned About Your Assets in Illinois Divorce?

A pension is but one of many assets that will be divided when you get divorced. With over 37 years of experience in Illinois divorce law, Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. is your go-to resource when you want to ensure property division is done properly.

Schedule a free, 30-minute consultation with Larry by calling our office at 630-470-9990 or submitting our simple, online form. We look forward to speaking with you and easing any concerns you may have about property division in Illinois.

Concentrated on Family Law

Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. is a law firm concentrating solely on family law and has served clients in DuPage, Will, Kane, and Kendall counties for over 35 years.

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About Attorney Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd.

Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. is a law firm concentrating solely on family law and has served clients in DuPage, Will, Kane, and Kendall counties for over 35 years.

We continue to work with clients in Naperville, Wheaton, Lisle, Oswego, Downers Grove, and the surrounding areas to provide one-on-one support and attention that will help you through this difficult time.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at any time. We look forward to offering our expertise and support to you throughout your case and after.