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Why Vacation Days Count in a Divorce

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After much back-and-forth, the Colorado Supreme Court has decided that vacation and sick days do, in fact, count as shared marital property. This doesn’t mean you’ll need to give your ex-spouse a few extra days off in the event of a divorce; rather, you’ll need to share the monetary value of that personal leave with him or her. Likewise, members of the military who are still eligible to “cash in” their leave will likely see that listed as a marital asset subject to equitable division as well.

The ruling stems from Cardona v. Castro (2014), whose permanent orders accounted for the husband’s accrued, but unused, personal days when dividing their marital property. The wife in this case stated that her husband had earned 452 hours (nearly 19 days) of paid leave; his salary was then calculated at $51.40 per hour, bringing the total value of his personal days to a whopping $23,232.80.

Regardless of whether he was entitled to any cash compensation for his outstanding personal time, the trial court awarded the wife half the sum and required the husband to pay her $11,616.00.

There was a series of appeals, but the Supreme Court’s recent ruling means that a spouse’s accrued vacation and sick days are marital property– and are subject to equitable division– IF the value of that leave can be reasonably calculated. In other words, the wife in Cardona v. Castro should not have been awarded half of her husband’s paid personal leave because there was no proof that he would be monetarily reimbursed for that unused time were he to leave his job.

Several companies eventually force employees to use their time-off and don’t ensure that unused days will roll-over to the next year, so it is worth reviewing your company’s policy regarding personal time. Do those days have an economic value that could find its way into your bank account one day, or are they simply a perk of the job?

Alternatively, it might just be time to splurge on that two-week vacation in the Caribbean after all.