Generally speaking, West Virginia law treats a pension as a joint asset that is subject to property division rules. However, there are steps that you might be able to take to prevent your spouse from taking a significant chunk of your retirement savings.
Does your spouse also have a pension?
If your spouse is employed, he or she may have a pension, 401(k) or other retirement savings account in his or her name. In such a scenario, your spouse may agree to a divorce settlement that allows each party to retain the money that they accrued during the course of the marriage.
Contributions made before getting married are generally safe
In most cases, only the appreciation that takes place during the marriage is divided in a final divorce settlement. Therefore, it’s likely in your best interest to jot down the account balance on the date that your union became official. Whoever maintains the account may also be able to tell you how much it was worth on the date that your marriage began.
Offer other assets in exchange for your pension
Your spouse may allow you to retain full ownership of your pension in exchange for other assets such as a car, home or art collection. It may also be possible to keep your pension by offering to make larger alimony payments.
If you are in the process of ending your marriage, it’s generally a good idea to consult an attorney prior to agreeing to a settlement. A legal adviser may be able to help you create a strategy to keep assets such as a pension, family home or other valuable commodities.