It goes without saying that people who have been married in New Jersey (NJ) acquire property during their marriage. They often think of this property as “our house,” “our car,” “our bank account,” and “our brokerage account.” When it comes time to end a marriage, the same people begin assessing what property they have acquired with a view toward dividing it. During this period of assessment, people continue to think of things like those previously mentioned the same way. Frequently overlooked, however, are retirement benefits earned through employment. What is the relationship between retirement and divorce in NJ? Does the person who “earned” those retirement benefits get to keep them all? Or does the spouse get some or all of those benefits?
Retirement and Divorce in NJ: The Basics
Under NJ law, the general rule is that the court in a NJ divorce may, in addition to awarding support, “effectuate an equitable distribution of the property, both real and personal, which was legally and beneficially acquired by them or either of them during the marriage or civil union” and divide the parties’ retirement benefits. The key words here, however, are “equitable distribution.” While NJ requires an “equitable” division of marital assets, it does not require the “equal” distribution of those assets.
In determining what distribution to make, NJ courts consider these factors, among other things:
- The length of the marriage
- The age, physical health, and emotional health of the parties
- The property or income brought to the marriage by each spouse
- The parties’ standard of living
- Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement between the parties
- The parties’ relative income and earning capacities
- The extent either party may have delayed pursuing a career during the marriage
- Contributions made by either party in acquiring, preserving, improving, or wasting marital property
- The tax consequences to the parties
- The present value of all property of the marriage
In other words, retirement benefits are subject to division just like any other spouse owned by a married couple.
Retirement and Divorce in NJ: The Mechanics
While retirement benefits may be divided during a divorce, it is every bit as important to ensure that once divided, the benefits actually are received by the party to whom they were awarded. In some instances, such as when the retirement benefit is subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (or ERISA) the court must enter a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO, to implement that division. Without the QDRO, the retirement benefits may not be received by the party entitled to them.
The division of retirement benefits can be complex and choosing the right attorney to help you with your retirement and divorce in NJ is one of the most important things you can do. If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Monmouth County who provides experience, tailored service, and a focus on working for you, Rozin | Golinder Law should be your first choice. You can contact us by completing this Contact Form or calling (732) 810-0034.