Ending a marriage is often accompanied by the difficult and sometimes contentious task of dividing the couple’s assets, especially assets that were accrued over many years. In a New Jersey divorce, retirement assets may be an important part of property division. Pensions and other retirement assets are usually the highest valued property that that the couple held. These assets are usually more valuable than the couple’s house.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. Accordingly, pensions and other retirement plans are part of the marriage assets if these were obtained, earned or contributions were made during the couple’s marriage. These would be divided equally or fairly during divorce proceedings.
It is likely that the marital portion of a pension would be divided equally, especially in a long-term marriage. Usually, the martial portion is the pension’s value between the marriage date and the date of the divorce complaint.
A spouse is also entitled to collect their Social Security benefit even if the other spouse does not go through divorce. That spouse may have the choice of receiving the greater of their own Social Security benefits or 50% of their spouse’s Social Security benefits if they meet Social Security Administration qualifications.
Spouses should understand their rights when they file for divorce or undergo settlement negotiations or litigation. Once a settlement is negotiated and entered, it may be impossible to change its terms. Any attempt, even if successful, will likely be expensive and time-consuming.
An attorney can advise a spouse on their rights on property division and other important divorce issues such as support and child custody. They can help assure that the divorce decree is fair and reasonable and that a spouse’s rights are protected.