Pensions come up in divorces when spouses work at Boeing, serve our nation’s military, are state employees or are union workers.
Pensions are very valuable yet, ironically, they have no cash value. They are becoming less common. They are valuable. A pension is the “right” to get a stream of payments every month once you turn 65 until you die. (State SERS and other pension plans do have “cash” values set by the State, but that’s the exception rather than the rule on pensions.)
Pension benefits earned before marriage or after separation are separate property and are excluded in pension valuation. See cases In re Marriage of Manry, 60 Wn.App. 146, 803 P.2d 8 (1991), and In re Marriage of Donovan, 25 Wn.App. 691, 612 P.2d 387 (1980) for more information.
The community share of a pension may include increased benefits due to salary increases following dissolution, but not increases due to additional years of service. See In re Marriage of Harris, 107 Wn. App 597, 27 P.3d 656 (2001), In re Marriage of Chavez, 80 Wn.App 432, 129 Wn.2d 1016 (1996). Pensions, when divided between parties, require that the Bulicek formula be used. See In re Marriage of Rockwell, 141 Wn.App. 235, 170 P.3d 572 (2007), In re Marriage of Bulicek, 59 Wn.App. 630, 800 P.2d 394 (1990).
Given how complicated the landscape of pensions is, it’s important to consult with an experienced family law attorney on the issue. Set a consult with one to get educated as to pensions. An attorney can help you learn how to plan for your future!