Q. Two months after my husband retired at age 55, he divorced me. Our house is not paid for and our youngest entered college a month after he retired. We are still paying for our eldest daughters’ student loans. I work part-time, but I don’t make enough to cover my expenses. Am I entitled to 50% of his pension? His lawyer has requested that I be denied my pension for 12 years until I retire. Do I have a choice? What about child benefit? He has joined golf and other clubs and lives the high life while I look after this family.
A. We are sorry to hear about your marriage.
Let’s start with child support payments.
Child support payments will continue until a child is emancipated, said Jeralyn Lawrence, a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung.
She said emancipation may or may not happen when the child is 18, she said.
“Generally, emancipation comes after graduation,” she said. “If a child goes to college and works full-time towards their basic education, regardless of whether the lessons are held in person or virtual / remote due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, then the child is not considered emancipated, an independent one is missing emancipatory event such as marriage or joining the armed forces, to name a few. “
Regardless, Lawrence said, the law is that child support payments cease when a child moves outside of their parents’ control, or in other words, when the child is self-sufficient. So your student would not be emancipated yet, and your husband would still be required to provide assistance, including a contribution to college expenses, she said.
However, for families with children with special needs or children, alimony can never stop.
“A child with special needs can never move beyond their parents’ control and can never be self-sufficient,” she said. “As a result, this is a basic analysis case that depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.”
The two main factors that need to be considered are the nature of the child’s special needs and what intervention or therapy the child is receiving to address the special needs, she said.
Regarding the division of your husband’s pension, you would be entitled to a portion of the marital portion of his pension since New Jersey is an equitable distributive state, which means that marital property will be fairly or equitably divided after a divorce, Lawrence said.
“The portion of your husband’s pension earned during your marriage is considered marital property, subject to division,” she said. “This is regardless of whether you are working or you have reached retirement age, and whether that is your husband’s only stream of income.”
Your request depends more on whether you are entitled to spousal allowance in addition to part of your husband’s pension. The answer is not that simple without additional information.
“Specifically, your husband retired at the age of 55, which can be considered early retirement and so is not necessarily a good faith retirement,” said Lawrence. “It is important to know what he made before he retired and just as important to know what you made during the marriage.”
They mention that he has joined golf and other clubs. It is necessary to have a better understanding of your marital standard of living to determine whether your husband’s quality of life has improved significantly after his retirement or whether these expenses were common during the marriage, Lawrence said.
“The ability of you and your husband to maintain the standard of living in the marriage is a relevant factor in determining whether you are eligible for spousal assistance,” she said.
Other relevant factors include whether your husband’s retirement was compulsory or voluntary, the other assets you and your husband accumulated during the marriage, and your age and health.
You should work with an experienced family lawyer who can analyze each of these factors with you and negotiate the best possible solution for you in the circumstances.
Email your questions to [email protected].
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled 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 e-newsletter.