When you think about high-value assets, you likely think of real estate, investments and perhaps even cash that you have on hand. You want to divide your financial assets up properly, which mean selling physical assets — the house — to split up the value.
However, experts note that one of the assets you own that is worth the most is likely your retirement plan or pension plan. People often undervalue these when they get divorced before they actually start using the plan, since it doesn’t impact their lives yet in a tangible way, but the total of those monthly payouts for years on end could be far more valuable than anything else you own.
Now, to split it up, you likely need to use a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, also known as a QDRO. In most cases, both people have a right to some of the retirement assets. For the opposite spouse, this is generally 50% of the plan — or the portion of the plan earned during the marriage. If you are the main payee and you earned half of your pension during your marriage, for instance, your spouse may have a right to 25% of each payment — 50% of the half you earned during your relationship.
One of the biggest questions to ask, though, is if you signed a prenuptial agreement. That’s the most common way that people get around dividing retirement assets. Did your agreement say that you don’t have to split the pension? If not, you may be legally obligated to do so, even though you feel like you earned that pension on your own. Make sure you are well aware of your legal options.