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What happens to a pension in a Georgia divorce?

Other than custody of a minor child, asset division is probably the most contentious issue in any divorce. You and your ex likely don’t agree on what is the best or most fair way to split up your possessions. This can lead to protracted battles in court.

Spouses often fight most furiously over the assets that are worth the most. Many couples focus on the home, which often represents the most significant purchase from the marriage. Another asset that can cause a lot of conflict in a divorce is a pension.

Pensions are typically marital property in Georgia

Georgia has its own unique approach to divorce, just like every other state. When it comes to splitting up the assets and debts from your marriage, they use the equitable distribution approach. For those unfamiliar with this term, equitable distribution involves looking at the circumstances of each spouse and other factors from the marriage to decide what is fair.

Equitable does not always mean a 50/50 split, but rather a property division ruling based on the current and likely future circumstances of all parties. Typically, any assets acquired during the marriage, as well as any debts, are subject to division by the court. This includes assets that are only in the name of one spouse, such as a pension.

The courts will look at deposits into the pension account that occurred during the marriage. This will include any matching amounts for employers, as this is also compensation earned during the marriage. Amounts accrued prior to the date of marriage may be exempt from division.

There is more than one way for the courts to handle splitting the value of a pension

In the case of standard retirement accounts, the court can simply issue a special order that requires the division of the retirement account. When it comes to pensions, however, it is often a benefit managed by an employer after retirement. In other words, there isn’t an account to split at this time.

The courts may need to be creative with how they handle a pension. In some cases, they may award other assets worth roughly the amount that the spouse who doesn’t have a pension would receive. Other times, they may order spousal support equivalent to the appropriate percentage of the pension once it begins paying out.

If you have a pension account, you should expect to share it with your spouse in a divorce or give away other assets to offset its value. If your spouse has a significant pension, you should seek a fair share of that account. In general, both spouses can expect to receive an equitable amount of the pension, as well as all other assets in a Georgia divorce.