In a final divorce judgment, a pension acquired in whole or part during a marriage, is considered a marital asset. Just like a house, a pension is subject to distribution in a final judgment.

The two most important things for a Georgia divorce attorney to consider when helping a party come up with a divorce settlement is determining the value of the marital assets and the needs of the party. The key decision to be made is to subject the marital share of the property to future distribution or trade its value off against some other asset.

Understanding Pension Orders and Divorce

Pension benefits are awarded after divorce through an order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This Order is what permits the pension or plan administrator to divide the pension. The party who holds the pension, usually as a result of employment, is referred to as the participant. The spouse, who wishes to make a claim to his or her marital rights in the pension, is referred to as the alternate payee. The first step for the alternate payee to ensure that he or she is getting the full value of his or her interest in the spouse’s pension is to secure details about the pension early in the divorce and negotiation process.

Cost of Living Increases Must be Carved Out

Many pension plans have a provision that offer a cost of living increase or other supplemental benefits. These future benefits must be specifically referred to and reserved in the judgment of divorce, stipulation of settlement, and the corresponding Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or the alternate payee will lose the rights to their future interest or any cost of living increases forever.

Pre-Retirement Death Benefits

The next category that should be included in the divorce settlement documents and orders includes pre-retirement death benefits. Generally, at the time of the divorce judgment, the participant is not yet retired. The alternate payee will have to wait for the participant to reach retirement age, or even under some plans, actual retirement, to begin receiving monthly payments from the plan.

When the Participant dies before retirement or reaching retirement age and your agreement or judgment does not award you pre-retirement death benefits, you may never see a dime of that pension. The agreement or judgment must name the alternate payee as the beneficiary of a pre-retirement death benefit under the pension in the event the former spouse dies before reaching retirement or retirement age.

Seek Legal Representation From a Lavonia Divorce Attorney if You are Contemplating Filing for Divorce in Georgia


When considering filing for divorce in Georgia, understanding your rights and responsibilities during the divorce action is important. The financial impact of a divorce is difficult enough to absorb without walking into potential pitfalls. A divorce judge has the power to order maintenance, child support, and alimony while the divorce action is pending. If one of the spouses stops paying for these items and does so because of the divorce action, the judge will most likely order him or her to continue to make the payments until the divorce action is resolved. The goal of the court during the pendency of divorce proceedings is to maintain the status quo until a division of assets and responsibilities and the establishment of child custody and support and maintenance is worked out by the divorcing spouses.

Contact a Lavonia GA family law lawyer at the Berelc Law Office today to schedule a confidential consultation. Our Lavonia, Georgia Family Law Lawyers have experience in contested and uncontested divorce matters as well as family law matters like child support, child visitation, and the modifications of such orders. Contact us today to schedule your consultation. Ask us about our other practice areas including auto accidents, personal injury claims, workers’ compensation, and criminal law.

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