In most states, a former spouse is only entitled to private pension funds after a divorce if granted to her by a state divorce court in a domestic relations order, according to the Pension Rights Center. State divorce courts determine the allocation of pension benefits between divorcing spouses. Former spouses are generally entitled to one half of private pension benefits earned during the marriage, according to Lawyers.com.
Private pensions benefits earned during the marriage generally are considered joint marital property and are usually one of the couple's largest assets, aside from the marital home, according to Divorcesource.com. The rules governing the division of pension benefits varies among the states.
Other pension benefits may be excluded from marital property under certain circumstances. For instance, though most civil service pensions are treated in the same way as private pensions, some states exclude certain civil service pensions, such as teachers' pensions, from marital property, notes Lawyers.com. Additionally, military pensions were excluded from marital property pursuant to federal law prior to 1982. Further, Social Security benefits are excluded from marital property, but a former spouse may collect Social Security through their ex-spouse's account if the couple was married at least 10 years and the former spouse has not remarried.
Private pension benefits are generally shared equally by divorcing spouses unless the contributing spouse requests that an actuary analyze the value of the pension earned during the marriage in order to buy out the noncontributing spouse's share, explains U.S. News and World Report.