Booklet Helps Women Navigate the Terrain of Dividing Retirement Benefits

Aug 8, 2012 by

Non-profit Guide Explains How Women Can Avoid Losing the Pension and Save Themselves From Additional Pain During a Split

The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) today released Divorce and Retirement: How to Take Control of Retirement Benefits, a short, commonsense guide on a complicated topic: splitting the financial assets — all of them — during a divorce. For hundreds of thousands of couples, this Valentine’s Day is only another reminder of the fraught financial reality that divorce presents.

“Divorce is complicated enough without having to worry about retirement benefits,” says Cindy Hounsell, President of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. “Our goal is to arm women against their biggest enemy, and it’s not the husband — it’s a lack of information.”

Written by WISER staff, including D.C.-based divorce attorney and expert Anne E. Moss, Divorce and Retirement claims that what you don’t know — and don’t ask about — can and will hurt you in a divorce. WISER urges readers to get as much information as possible prior to the divorce because “it’s nearly impossible to go back to court and ask about a share of your ex-husband’s benefit that you learn about after the fact.”

The booklet includes Moss’s “10 Ways to Avoid Losing the Pension During a Divorce,” — a harsh wakeup call to anyone who currently trusts her lawyer completely. As Moss says, “Ask your lawyer these questions!”

Hounsell agrees. “Knowing what to ask your lawyer can save you from additional heartache during a divorce,” she says. “Trust no one — and never assume that your attorney is an expert on the many federal and state laws in place for splitting retirement benefits.”

Because pension and retirement benefits are not automatically split in a divorce, they are often overlooked, and women especially can end up losing big. Divorce and Retirement reiterates the importance of these benefits and breaks down the legal jargon that usually accompanies information on marital property, negotiating an agreement, and getting a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). WISER also points readers to additional resources, such as AoA-funded Pension Rights Projects across the country, and fact sheets that go into further detail.

“This booklet is not about getting more than your share, or getting back at your former spouse,” says Hounsell. “It’s about money — your money — and how to make sure an innocent oversight (or not-so-innocent) doesn’t prevent you from receiving extra help when you’ll probably need it most — in retirement.”

Divorce and Retirement is available for free online at, or in hard copy for $4. Contact WISER at or call 202-393-5452 for more information.

Source: Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement


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