Court: Options Same as Pensions in Divorce

May 3, 2001 - ( - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that unvested stock options should be treated the same as unvested pensions when dividing marital property in a divorce.

The case involved James and Patricia Fisher who were married in 1984, separated in 1993, and divorced in 1994.

During the marriage, James worked for the Harley-Davidson Corporation and was periodically awarded stock options. In the divorce, Patricia sought an equitable distribution of James’ unvested stock options.

In the case of Fisher v. Fisher, the court divided the unvested stock options by means of a “deferred distribution” approach, which excludes the options from the present distribution but allows the options to be valued when they are exercised.

Same Treatment as Pensions

Patricia had argued that all other states faced with deciding whether unvested stock options were marital property had treated unvested stock options in the same way as unvested pensions.

James had contended that because stock options are mere expectancies, they should be excluded from the marital estate.

– Camilla Klein

The full text of the opinion can be found at .