Cearley v. Cearley

In Cearley v. Cearley, 544 S.W.2d 661, 663-64, 20 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 102 (Tex. 1976) the Court considered whether future pension benefits constitute community property rights subject to equitable division upon divorce. The Court approved of the proposition that even "nonvested pension rights are . . . a contingent interest in property," and "to the extent that such rights derive from employment during coverture, they comprise a community asset subject to division in a dissolution proceeding." Id. Pension plan benefits become vested when the employee has an unconditional ownership interest in them; that is, the employee has the right to receive the accrued benefits upon retirement whether or not he is working for the same employer. Brown, 37 BAYLOR L. REV. at 119. In contrast, pension benefits are "matured" when the employee is entitled to "immediate collection and enjoyment." Id. The Court also discussed the difficulty of computing the present value of such a contingent interest and approved the method of making the award of the non-employee spouse's community interest "effective if, as, and when the benefits are received by the employee spouse." 544 S.W.2d at 666.