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Dividing Pensions in a Divorce

Martial property — generally, all property accumulated during a marriage — must be divided by the Court in a divorce proceeding in a manner that is just and equitable. Pension benefits can be marital property subject to division. In many circumstances, a pension is one of the largest assets in a divorce because it is usually accumulated over the course of a long career.

For purposes of a division of property analysis, Missouri law perceives three stages with a pension: (1) accumulation before the plan vests, (2) after the plan vests but before it matures, (3) and the plan is both bested and matured. Kuchta v. Kuchta, 636 S.W.2d 636, 666 (Mo. 1982). The majority of difficulties arise when a divorce is being finalized in situations (1)-(2). The problems mostly center on the realities that the pension value is often difficult to determine (presently and in the future). To counteract this difficulty, courts can flexibly approach this division and employ a “wait and see” approach that divides benefits if and when the working spouse retires and begins to receive them. Id. Although the preference is a full and final division without future contingencies, pensions do not lend themselves to rigid and fixed rules. Id. 665-66. 

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