Q. After 19 years of marriage, I divorce and my husband has a private pension through his job. I ask for everything I am entitled to. I met my lawyer, who told me that I would start collecting the pension after he died. He has been receiving pension benefits since January 2021 and he is still working. Does that ring true? After the divorce, how will I know when he dies or how to get a death certificate? I need a second option.
– Ask for help
A. It is always a good idea to get a second opinion.
New Jersey is a state of equitable distribution, which means that marital property is divided equally in the event of a divorce – or evenly.
“Marital property” is defined as the assets and debts acquired or acquired during the marriage, individually or jointly, said Jeralyn Lawrence, family lawyer at Lawrence Law in Watchung.
This includes real estate, personal property, retirement accounts and bank accounts, as well as mortgages, loans and revolving debts.
“Depending on your situation, you find out about your right to your husband’s pension after 19 years of marriage, whose pension has already “paid off,” Lawrence said. “We consider a pension to have ‘earnings status’, when the participant / pensioner is eligible and begins to receive payment distributions from the pension plan. “
The fair distribution of pensions, whether through private employment or public entities, is determined by the type of plan or pension and, therefore, the specific formula used to fairly distribute that asset, Lawrence said.
A pension is a defined benefit plan and will generally pay a specified monthly amount upon retirement or upon eligibility to receive payment distributions, usually based on factors such as the member’s age, life expectancy / member, future salary and / or years of service with the company, she says.
“When a pension is equitably distributed in the context of a divorce, the marital part of the pension must be defined, which is called the marital coverage fraction,” she said. . “The numerator of this fraction is the total number of months of marriage while your husband was employed and in the plan, and the denominator is the total number of months of service with the company.”
At the time of divorce, a Qualified Family Relations Order (QDRO) can be prepared. It will dictate the division of the pension so that you receive your share of that asset, she said.
“If the plan allows, there is a possibility that your monthly benefit from this asset could begin as soon as the QDRO is executed,” she said. “However, you may need to consult the brief description of the plan associated with that pension to better understand the eligibility of another beneficiary / non-member spouse to receive a portion of that specific pension, as pensions are often subject to certain regulations and guidelines that determine eligibility for the benefit for both participants / members and other beneficiaries / non-member spouses.
You should obtain a copy of the summary plan description to have a more specific and complete understanding of your interest in the pension.
Email your questions to [email protected].
Karin Price Mueller writes on Bamboo column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com‘s weekly electronic newsletter.