Divorce: What About My Husband's NFL Pension?

Question: I need to know about my husband's NFL pension because we're getting a divorce. He played for quite a while as a pro football player. He was drafted in an early round from an SEC school and went on to a good but not great career in the NFL. He played for 4 teams. He went to the playoffs in a couple of seasons.

We're getting divorced because after his football career he was kind of lost and did some things and hung out with some people that I don't approve of. He was cheating and he started drinking. He lost a lot of money investing in businesses with friends. He invested in a yogurt store, a dry cleaners, restaurants and a boy band that sang love songs.

I really need to know about how much of his pension, if any, I can have. We have 5 kids and I want to live in a good neighborhood. I want to keep my car.

We live in Milton, GA and have a condo in Atlanta which we let our daughter use because she is a student at Georgia State University. We also have a house on Lake Lanier. I met him in college and helped him study and even get ready for the NFL draft. We got married two weeks before the draft.

Answer: Under Georgia law, you are entitled to half of the pension that accrued during your marriage. We are familiar with the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan, having represented clients who were vested in the plan. Since you were married before the draft, and the pension starts to accrue when he signs an NFL contract, then it sounds like you will be entitled to half his NFL pension.

If, however, he had a 10 year football career and you were married for 5 of those years, you would, generally speaking, be entitled to half of the pension accrual of those 5 years.

Usually pensions are divided in divorce matters using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, a QDRO. A QDRO is a legal document that apportions a pension or retirement account.

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