Will I be able to collect a portion of my ex-spouse’s pension benefits?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Will I be able to collect a portion of my ex-spouse’s pension benefits?

We were divorced in New Jersey in 1996. In the property settlement agreement, the transcript says that ‘both parties have waived their interests in future assets.’ I was young at the time of my divorce and did not think about my ex-husband’s pension benefits at that time. My attorney forgot to mention in the settlement agreement about me being entitled to my ex-husband’s pension plan when he retires. I cannot prove anything to the contrary.

Now my ex has retired from Metropolitan Transit Authority New York Subwaysand collecting pension. I drafted a Domestic Relations Order that was consented in form by the plan administrator. They need a New York State-registered DRO to process it.

I have three questions 1 What should I do to receive a portion of my ex-husband’s pension benefit?
2 Although, the divorce was finalized in NJ, I am a New York resident for the last 15 years, do I have to register my divorce case in New York first, before I can register this DRO to the court in New York?
3 Do I have any grounds to claim a portion of my ex-spouse’s pension?
Please respond to all my three questions above. Thank you in advance.

Asked on August 29, 2019 under Family Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You write that the transcript--which is a binding court document--states that "both parties have waived their interests in future assets." That answers your question: you gave up your right to seek anything from your ex-husband's future assets, which includes from his penion. It doesn't matter that the your attorney at the time may have forgotten to mention that might have been entitled to your ex's pension plan--you are bound to the agreement you entered into and the representations made on the record (i.e. the transcript) in court.

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