Can my ex stop my pension benefits?


Q. I have been collecting a percentage of my ex-husbands pensions. I was married for five years. He wants to file a motion to stop the payments to me until he passes away. I originally had to garnish these pensions for my alimony. Can he do this?
— Not so sure

A. As you know, every divorce is different. Without more specific information from you, we are going to address the issues in general.

Specifically, if as part of your divorce you received a portion of your ex-husband’s pension by way of equitable distribution, just as how all other assets acquired during the marriage had been distributed between the two of you, your ex-husband would have no chance of having your receipt of the partial pension payouts stopped, said Ken White, a certified matrimonial attorney with Shane and White in Edison.

“When an asset is divided between parties to a divorce it is final,” White said. “So if that asset was a bank account with $50,000 and the judge awarded each your ex-husband and yourself 50 percent of that bank account, you would each receive $25,000.”

Going forward you would each be free to use your respective $25,000 as you deemed fit, he said, without fear that the other could go back to court and seek a modification.

When pension benefits are similarly distributed by way of equitable distribution, it is final, and each party is free to use the asset however they want, he said.

White said from the way you worded your question, it appears that you may not be referring to pension benefits that were distributed by way of equitable distribution, but instead that you were having difficulty collecting court ordered support, such as alimony, that your ex-husband was ordered to pay you.

White said any time one party to a divorce is ordered to pay support to the other, it’s likely the earned income of the obligor will be garnished to satisfy the burden. If the obligor no longer has earned income, assets of the obligor can be garnished if the obligor is no longer voluntarily satisfying the support obligation.

“If you had successfully secured a garnishment against your ex’s pension benefits to satisfy an ongoing alimony obligation, it is unlikely, absent exceptional circumstances, that your ex would be able to terminate or suspend that garnishment so long as the alimony obligation continues or there remains arrears due and owing,” White said. “However, once the arrears have been brought current and the alimony obligation ends, your ex would certainly be within his right to have the garnishment terminated as it would seem he no longer owes you any money.”

We recommend you meet with an experienced family law attorney who can take the time to review with you all the relevant facts and circumstances of your case.

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