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Will divorce affect your teacher's pension?

Teachers who are married are often used to the daily struggle of trying to balance work with their personal relationships at home. Advice columns galore provide suggestions about how to "leave work at work" and give your spouse and children your undivided attention once you exit the classroom. Sometimes, marriage just doesn't work out, and couples choose to divorce rather than continue in a downward spiral.

Of course, it's not only Texas teachers who often wind up in divorce court, but they, like other business professionals, often have certain concerns regarding financial issues or other important matters as they navigate the process.

Common worries regarding the decision to divorce

When you entered marriage, you undoubtedly hoped your union would last a lifetime. Perhaps, you and your spouse even made multiple attempts to keep your marriage intact. If you ultimately determined that divorce may be the best solution, it's understandable you might be worried and feeling a bit overwhelmed. You're not alone. Many people suffer anxiety regarding the following soon after deciding to file for divorce:

  • Fear of change: If you've been married a good many years, it can be unnerving stepping into the unknown. In marriage, you may not know exactly what the future holds, but many aspects of life become routine and expected. Divorce means you'll be facing a lot of changes and uncertainties, many of which are financially related.
  • Protection of assets: State laws vary regarding martial property and the division of you and your former spouse's assets. As a teacher, you might be worried about your projected bonuses, incentives and/or pension, and how your divorce may affect each.
  • Parenting plans: This is often a highly contested topic in divorce. As a teacher, you might have particular needs associated with custody and childcare in relation to your career, as well as other financial issues pertaining to their support.

Any or all of the above may be priorities of yours as you plan a new future and take steps to provide for your immediate needs and accomplish your goals. With regard to your pension, there is a wealth of resources available that can help you make informed decisions and protect the best interests of you and your children (if you have any).

Pensions and divorce

Various factors determine whether your former spouse will receive a portion of your teacher's pension. Noting the following facts may help you better prepare for divorce:

  • Length of marriage: If you have been married two years (or more) without separation, your spouse will be entitled to a portion of the pension you've earned during that time.
  • Options available for asset division: If you'd rather your pension remain intact, you and your spouse may agree to divide other assets in portions that offset the amount of your pension to which your spouse would have been entitled.
  • Before or after retirement: Whether your divorce occurs while you remain employed as a teacher or after your retirement affects how much information your spouse has access to regarding your pension and what he or she must do to obtain it.
  • Transfers as lump sums: Should you decide to transfer your pension as a lump sum before retirement age, your former spouse (in receiving his or her portion) would be required to do the same.

If dividing your teacher's pension, you and your spouse must present a signed agreement to the court regarding division instructions. To prevent delays and obstacles, it is best to make sure such instructions follow all appropriate guidelines, adhere to current property division laws in the state of Texas and are clearly defined. It is often helpful to allow an experienced family law attorney to review your plan and provide guidance before proceeding to court in order to expedite the process and address any potential impediments that surface along the way.

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