Does a stay-at-home spouse share in a pension after a divorce?

Does a stay-at-home spouse share in a pension after a divorce?

| May 6, 2020 | Asset Division |

Being the sole breadwinner for a family is a difficult prospect. You have an obligation to earn enough to allow your spouse to remain home while still covering all of the expenses that your family incurs. The stress of that hard work and the long hours that your role as a provider requires could eventually lead to issues in your marital relationship and a potential divorce.

After years of being the one supporting the family, you might feel protective of the assets you’ve acquired throughout the years. Concerns about retaining the equity accrued in a marital home and protecting pension or retirement benefits are often primary considerations for heads of households facing divorce. Under Illinois law, will you wind up forced to split your retirement fund or pension with your ex after the divorce?

Illinois tries to be fair when splitting your assets and debts

Despite what nightmare stories you may have heard from other people, the whole objective of the asset division process is to create a solution that is reasonable and fair for everyone. Although it’s common for people to feel disappointed or upset with the terms the courts set, the equitable property division standard seeks to make things as reasonable as possible.

The courts will consider your role as primary wage-earner and your contributions to the household when deciding what is a fair way to split up the assets you earned and acquired during the marriage. However, they will also consider the unpaid contributions of your ex and how the years out of the workforce while caring for your family will impact their earning potential moving forward. They will generally split the marital property in a way they deem fair to both parties, given the circumstances.

Is your pension marital property?

Pensions and retirement accounts are often the result of decades of contributions and investment. In most cases, only the assets acquired during the marriage are marital property and subject to division.

The balance you accrued prior to your marriage will remain your separate property, as will the amount you contribute after you separate from your ex. However, the amount you contributed during the marriage, including interest and contributions by your employer, will likely wind up subject to division.

In some cases, the courts may split the account itself. Other times, they may use the value of your spouse’s share of the pension or retirement account to inform how they allocate other assets.