Legal Memorandum: Pension Rights in a Divorce Settlement in HI

Issue: Is there a difference between vested versus non-vested pension rights in a divorce settlement in Hawaii?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Family Law
Keywords: Divorce settlement; Vested and non-vested pension rights
Jurisdiction: Hawaii
Cited Cases: 1 Haw. App. 272
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2013

Linson v. Linson, 1 Haw. App. 272, 618 P.2d 748 (1980), involved the inclusion of vested pension rights in a divorce settlement.  In Linson, the court engaged in a discussion comparing vested versus non-vested pension rights before concluding there should be no distinction between them.  Finding the benefits in a pension situation to be tangible assets, the court explained:

. . . retirement benefits are not gratuities flowing from the employer’s beneficence, but rather part of the consideration earned by the employee, a form of deferred compensation for services rendered. . . . "[A] contractual right is not an expectancy but a chose in action, a form of property". . . . The fact that an employee’s contractual right to a pension is contingent upon future events "does not degrade that right to an expectancy."


Id., 1 Haw. App. at 276, 618 P.2d at 750. 

The Helbush case, Helbush v. Helbush, 122 P.3d 288 (Haw. 2005), the parties, before marrying and later as husband and wife, farmed a parcel of land that was held by a trust.  The terms of the trust required the real property to be allocated between the husband, Roy (60%), and his sister (40%) upon the death of their mother.  Prior to that, Roy was entitled to 60% of the profits generated by the land. 

The trial court found that Roy’s spouse, Donni, had assisted in the farming and development of the property for approximately 12 years.  Id. at […]

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