Why you have to share your work pension when you divorce

Why you have to split work pensions when you divorce

Jeanne has some bad blood with her soon-to-be ex. Can she keep the pension she worked hard for all to herself?

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Q: I am now negotiating a separation agreement with my spouse. I do not want to share my teacher’s pension. We have been married 34 years. During our entire marriage, I worked as a teacher, and I worked on the farm, mainly doing all the financial book-keeping and accounting. Along with that, I have managed our investments and provided him (my husband) with a good income. I was never paid for that. Does that give me a reason to decline to share my pension? He has left because he is an alcoholic. He will use it to continue drinking. He has plenty of money to live very well without my pension.

—Jeanne

A: Unfortunately, Jeanne, when you are negotiating a separation agreement for a long-term marriage, every asset grown during the marriage is up for grabs. The law is such that, any assets that have grown during the time of the of the marriage, pension included, are used to determine the net family property.

In your case working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CFDA) could help you determine which assets would be most beneficial to keep. This is not the type of work that a lawyer would be happy to help you with. There are issues like taxation and estate planning that would come into play when separating assets, as well as assets like a pension and farm.

Under Canadian law, the fact that your ex-spouse is an alcoholic and would use his assets to further engage is not relevant, nor is the fact that you carried the burden during your time together. That is why it is so important to work with the right people who can help you manage from this time forward. Although assets look like they may have one value on paper the reality is there are many factors to consider.

Protect yourself going forward and make sure you are negotiating from a position of knowledge and empowerment. Please be aware, that any assets your husband has are also included in the Net Family property calculation so there is a lot to consider as it is not an asset for an asset—it is the total amount of assets, divided to come to equal sums for each of the two spouses.

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