They are. And that can be a very, very emotional issue for a lot of people. Many times, after a house, a pension is going to be the single biggest asset that exists. And a pension is oftentimes interpreted as the sweat equity of the employee who went to work each day and who created those pension benefits through effort everyday on the job.
We tend to look as a pension as mine, mine, mine, because I’m the one who did the work to earn it. But that’s not how it’s interpreted under California law. Those pension plan benefits that were earned during the marriage are, again, community property. If the entirety of your pension was earned while you were married, then the entirety of that pension is community property and it is going to be divided 50/50.
John Harding is the principal of the law firm of Harding & Associates in Northern California. He practices family law litigation and divorce mediation exclusively.