I didn’t know my ex had a pension. What now?

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Q. I recently just found out that my deceased ex-husband had a pension but it wasn’t mentioned in the divorce and he was represented by a lawyer and I wasn’t. I contacted the city pension office to ask about the pension and was told they didn’t know that he was ever married and asked me to send in a copy of the marriage certificate along with the death certificate and when I presented proof, I was told that since we were divorced that I was not entitled to his pension is their any way I can get help are am I just at a lost?
— Unsure and worried

A. We understand why you would want to see if you’re eligible to get the pension funds.

The timing is what’s important here.

The threshold question that needs to be answered is whether or not any part of this pension was acquired during the marriage, said Jeralyn Lawrence, a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung.

If the pension was not marital, meaning not acquired between the date of marriage and the date of complaint for divorce, it was properly excluded from the marital estate, Lawrence said.

“If a part of the pension, however, was acquired during the marriage and is a marital asset but it was not addressed in the divorce settlement agreement, you would need to talk to an estate and trusts lawyer as to how to possibly assert a claim against the estate,” she said.

She said you should be sure to gather as much proof as possible to confirm whether any portion of the pension is marital. It will also be important to value the pension, and a pension valuator can provide the value of the pension so you understand the potential value which is at issue, she said.

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This story was originally published in May 2024.

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