Under the Family Code of California, community property is divided between the spouses 50/50. Retirement benefits are a form of employment compensation, like earnings. Thus, regardless of when the benefits are vested or matured, for pensions based on time of service as opposed to a point system fn-1, the benefits are community property, to the extent earned during marriage, up to date of separation.
For example, if the Participant [spouse earning the pension] earns benefits under the plan for 240 months, and is married prior to separation during 160 of those months, 2/3 of the benefits are community property. The other spouse therefore has a right to 50% of that 2/3 = 1/3 of the pension benefits.
When these rights are established through an appropriate order [see below], the other spouse is recognized by the pensions as an Alternate Payee.
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For more information, contact the Law Offices of Renee M. Marcelle at (415) 456-4444, or online at www.familylawmarin.com