Divorce and Pensions: Make Sure Your Agreement is Clear
As a family law attorney, I often see issues arise years after a divorce when it comes to dividing up retirement assets like pensions. A recent decision from the Massachusetts Appeals Court illustrates why it's so important for settlement agreements to clearly spell out each spouse's rights to the other's pension.
In Boyle, the ex-husband appealed a contempt judgment against him for failing to pay his ex-wife her share of his pension. The couple divorced in 2006 after a 32-year marriage. Their divorce agreement stating the wife would receive 20% of the husband's pension while he was alive.
But here's the problem: the agreement didn't explain exactly how the wife was supposed to get her share. Was the husband supposed to arrange for the pension administrator to pay her directly? Or was he supposed to send her a check for 20% each month? This lack of specificity created years of conflict.
For over a decade after the divorce, the husband never paid his ex-wife anything from his pension, even though the agreement clearly said she was "entitled to" 20%. The wife had to take him back to court to enforce the agreement. The husband tried to argue the agreement was ambiguous, but the Appeals Court disagreed – he was found in contempt.
The wife ultimately prevailed, but only after years of unnecessary litigation. This case highlights how important it is for divorce settlement agreements to spell out, in no uncertain terms, each spouse's rights when it comes to dividing retirement assets like pensions. Don't leave it up to your ex to decide how to get you your share down the road.
Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.