Is Your Spouse’s Retirement Fund Subject to Equitable Distribution in a Fort Lauderdale Divorce?

Yes. The question then becomes how much? This depends on how much of the spouse’s pension fund the Broward County divorce court judge deems marital property. Florida statutory and case law is clear that all marital property is subject to equitable distribution during a Fort Lauderdale divorce. In a dissolution proceeding, the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court will request a list of both parties’ assets, along with details describing when those assets were obtained. Assets that were acquired during the marriage as well as assets that gained value during the marriage – due to marital funds or marital efforts – are considered marital property.

A retirement fund, or pension plan, is money set aside for an employee after he or she is no longer working. Both the employer and the employee contribute to the retirement fund during the course of employment. By definition, a pension plan is deferred compensation. A spouse’s income during the marriage is subject to equitable distribution; so therefore, a spouse’s pension plan is subject to equitable distribution as well. As a general rule, the spouse is entitled to the portion of the pension fund that accumulated during the marriage.

Recently, nine Continental Airlines pilots “faked” their divorces to cash in early on their pension funds. Under a provision of the federal pension law, an ex-spouse who is a named beneficiary is entitled to receive all or a portion of the funds after a divorce. Under the law, the pilots divorced their spouses, however, told neither their children, nor their family members or their friends. The spouses cashed in and after receiving the funds the parties remarried. Continental Airlines found out about the couples’ remarriage and filed suit against them.

Equitable distribution is the division of marital property during a divorce. The objective of equitable distribution in Florida is a fair distribution of the spouse’s property. In Florida, the court must deal with the equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities before considering spousal support. During a divorce the court must divide the marital property. First the court will determine which property is “marital property” and which property is “nonmarital property.”

Marital property includes real property held together by the parties, all assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, gifts to each other during the marriage, all vested and non vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage and the enhancement in value and appreciation of nonmarital assets. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution.

Nonmarital property includes real property held individually before the marriage, assets and liabilities incurred before the marriage, gifts received before the marriage, and assets and liabilities excluded and segregated from the marital property. Nonmarital property is not included in equitable distribution.