How MA Law Treats Pensions and Divorce

Are you wondering what will happen to your pension or other retirement benefits during the division of property in a divorce? Learn how MA law treats pensions and divorce. 

Massachusetts Division of Property: The Basics

Massachusetts law recognizes two types of property in a divorce: marital property, which belongs equally to both spouses, and separate property, which belongs to only one spouse.

The court aims to provide an “equitable distribution” of marital property, which means that a judge won’t split the property exactly down the middle. Instead, they will review the specific circumstances and find a fair division that equally benefits both you and your spouse. 

Distinguishing marital property from separate property is sometimes tricky. Marital property is any property you or your spouse acquired during the marriage. Separate property is:

  • Property you or your spouse acquired before the marriage
  • Property you or your spouse acquired during the marriage as a gift or inheritance
  • Property you or your spouse acquired and kept separate from the marital assets

Is a Pension Marital or Separate Property?

Does Massachusetts treat a pension as marital or separate property in a divorce? The answer is that it’s complicated. Some divorce agreements treat pensions as property, while others see them as an income stream, impacting the pension holder’s child support and/or spousal support requirements. 

Here’s how MA law treats pensions and divorce in many cases:

Pensions as Property

Marital courts commonly treat pensions as assets or property instead of income. In this case, the judge would determine the value the pension has accrued during the marriage, then divide this value between both spouses. The judge may award a lump sum payment to the non-pension holder or award that spouse other property from the divorce in an amount equal to the value of the pension. 

Pensions as Income

While rare, the court does sometimes consider pensions to be income instead of assets. This is more common in divorces in which one spouse is a much higher earner than the other. 

If the judge considers your pension income, they may require you to pay a part of the asset — such as the percentage that makes up the difference between your income and your spouse’s income — to your spouse monthly as part of their alimony or survivor benefit.

Can a Divorce Lawyer Help You Protect Your Pension? 

Your pension is a valuable component of your financial security and future peace of mind. You’ve worked hard to maintain this employee benefit, and you may not want to sacrifice part of it to your spouse in the divorce. 

When the judge considers a pension to be income, the pension holder often ends up with the short end of the stick, owing their spouse monthly payments that decrease their own income. When you work with an experienced divorce lawyer, we can help you protect this asset and divide marital property fairly.

Contact a Massachusetts Divorce Attorney Today

Now that you know how MA law treats pensions and divorce, trust our team to help you protect your pension. Contact Koiles Pratt Family Law Group today at 978-744-7774 to schedule your consultation. 

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