Every state has its own laws about divorce and marital assets. When it comes to asset division, Ohio courts focus on an equitable and fair outcome. Of course, what the courts consider equitable and fair does not always line up with what either spouse hopes for in a divorce. This is particularly true when it comes to assets that have personal value, such as a pension.

For many working adults, a pension is a source of pride. Once a staple of retirement, these days a pension is an uncommon privilege. A pension reflects the fact that you have worked with the same employer for many decades. It also often includes benefits from your employer, such as matching contributions.

It is very common for people to feel strongly about protecting their pension in a divorce. Understanding how Ohio approaches pensions (which is similar to its approach to other retirement accounts) can help you prepare for your upcoming divorce.

Unless you have a prenup, plan to share

People are often protective of certain assets. Whether it’s a car that you have driven for years or the vacation home that you fixed up with your own two hands, having assets with emotional ties is common. A pension is often one of those benefits. You probably expect to rely on your pension as you hit your retirement phase in life.

Needing to split your pension in half with your spouse, who may or may not have worked, can feel unfair. However, it is the most likely outcome in an Ohio divorce. Unless your marriage was brief or your spouse and you signed a prenuptial agreement addressing your pension, the courts will likely view any contributions made during your marriage, including employer matching amounts, as marital assets. In other words, those deposits into your pension are subject to division when the pension pays out.

While splitting the value of a pension is common, it doesn’t always happen the same way

Barring atypical circumstances, you should expect to split the pension with your spouse in a divorce. The courts may not rule for a 50/50 split, but it is likely that at least some amount of the pension will end up allocated to your spouse. There are several ways that this can happen.

In some cases, the courts may look at the total amount deposited into the pension during the marriage and award your spouse additional assets equivalent to their share of the pension. That can mean losing out on assets at the time of your divorce, but you will still retain the full pension when you retire.

Other times, the courts may order you to split the pension when it pays out after you retire. That typically takes the form of spousal support that begins when you retire and continues for a prescribed period of time. In cases with a pension, you often have some room for negotiation. It may be worth your time to consider seeking an uncontested divorce that will allow you greater control over what happens with your pension in the divorce.