Does a party to a divorce need to disclose an accrued, but unvested pension?
In Connecticut parties to a divorce need to exchange Financial Affidavits. These affidavits are designed to provide a comprehensive picture of income, living expenses, assets, and liabilities. A party to a divorce is entitled to rely on the representations of an opposing-party’s Financial Affidavit.
What happens when a party to a divorce does not disclose an accrued, but unvested pension on his or her Financial Affidavit? If a party can argue that an asset was not appropriately disclosed, they may try to re-open a divorce judgment, as it relates to property distribution.
The Connecticut Supreme Court, in the case of Catherine Reville vs. John Reville (SC 18452) (officially released July 8, 2014) addresses the issue. As stated in this decision:
• A party is legally obligated to disclose the existence and characteristics of a pension regardless of whether it clearly is distributable property (under Connecticut General Statute Section 46b-81).
• A party’s ability to show she was defrauded, is not dependent on her establishing that had she known about the pension, she would have been awarded some portion of it.
The real issue in the Reville case is disclosure, as opposed to the right to a party’s interest in the pension, which is addressed in an earlier case . See Bender v. Bender, 258 Conn. 751
The Supreme Court commented that the existence of the pension “was a highly relevant consideration both for the plaintiff in deciding whether to agree to the proposed settlement agreement, and for the dissolution court in deciding whether to approve that agreement.” “Accordingly, nondisclosure, if proven, could have caused the plaintiff to act to her detriment, and full disclosure could have led to a different result in the dissolution action.”
The Court reiterated that “all retirement and employment benefits potentially receivable by a party to a dissolution action must be fully and frankly disclosed on that party’s financial affidavits, regardless of whether they are definitively established to be distributable marital property.”
Joel A. DeFelice is a partner at Marder & DeFelice Law Offices, LLC, located in Vernon, Connecticut.