Am I entitled to my ex husbands pension if he refuses to pay it? 31 Answers as of August 15, 2011

My divorce agreement twelve years ago indicates that I get one-third of my ex-husbands pension. He has since moved the money around in investments and says the money is gone. Is he liable to pay me the amount of the value of the pension when the divorce was final?

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Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler | Robert L Fiedler
You should have had the pension order processed with a QDRO and that would have saved your interest. Now things are a mess and it will take considerable effort, albeit worthwhile, to get what you were supposed to receive.
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 8/10/2011
Beresford Booth PLLC
Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
It looks like you need to have a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) entered.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 8/5/2011
Neville J. Bedford Attorney at Law
Neville J. Bedford Attorney at Law | Neville J. Bedford
Yes, but you may have to go back to court to adjudge him in contempt and enforce the judgment.
Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
Replied: 8/3/2011
Horizons Law Group, LLC
Horizons Law Group, LLC | Michelle B. Fitzgerald
Yes, but to collect on pension/retirement you need to do a separate order to submit to the plan. You will need the help of an attorney now to determine where the order should now go, given he liquidated/moved money. If he doesn't comply, it could be contempt which requires a motion, so highly recommend an attorney.
Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
Replied: 8/3/2011
Cody and Gonillo, LLP
Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
He is obligated to follow the court orders; you should file a contempt motion if he has not.
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 8/3/2011
    Michael Apicella
    Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
    The first question that comes to mind is why did the Pension Plan pay out your share of benefits directly to your ex-husband? Did you not "join" the Plan to your divorce, and file and order directing the Plan to pay directly to you a specific percentage? If the Plan was not joined, there are several steps you will need to take to recover your share of the Pension. Such steps cannot be properly described in a few sentences. You should contact a local family law lawyer to analyze this issue and help you resolve the problem. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    ROWE LAW FIRM
    ROWE LAW FIRM | Jeffrey S. Wittenbrink
    You are entitled to enforce the agreement you made with your husband, but may have issues with the length of time which has passed, depending upon when he actually retired or began taking the pension and when you were entitled to be paid. You should consult an attorney about the specific facts of your case right away.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    Yes. Why didn't your Attorney protect your interest in his pension with a QDRO, or were you one of those people who did it yourself?
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni | Jay W. Neff
    It seems to me that it is first going to depend on exactly what the divorce decree and related documents actually say about the pension. The exact wording can have a significant affect upon how the risks of gain or loss are distributed between the two of you. Second, it is going to depend upon exactly why the money has disappeared, if it has. For example, if the pension plan administrator foolishly had all of the pension money invested in Enron before it collapsed, then, you may be out of luck. On the other hand, if the money has disappeared because your ex is hiding it somewhere, you may be able to collect something. Regardless, you are probably going to need to hire an attorney if you want to try to collect, because there may be significant issues of what you can prove or can't prove.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Seattle Divorce Services
    Seattle Divorce Services | Michael V. Fancher
    A lot depends on the exact language of the court order awarding you the interest in the pension. Consult with an attorney in your area who can look over the court order for you.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Michael Rose Attorney at Law
    Michael Rose Attorney at Law | Michael Rose
    Why didn't you get it at the end of the divorce? Is it in an employer fund? Or is it a 401K. If he took it he has to pay tax and penalty on it. If he borrowed it he has to pay it back. Can you check on it? Did you do your own divorce??
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2011
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
    You must file a Contempt of Court against him for the amount and also ask the Court for sanctions which will include attorney's fees, court cost and interest at 1 percent per month on the unpaid balance.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C.
    Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C. | Fredric Harlan Aaron
    Your ex-husband's failure to pay you one-third of his pension could be deemed a breach of your divorce settlement agreement. You should consult with an experienced matrimonial attorney to determine what rights you have in your situation. This would involve reviewing your agreement and determining if your ex-husband has any assets against which you could collect a judgment.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    The answer may depend on why you waited 12 years to divide the proceeds, what has occurred since that time and whether your divorce decree includes any language that allows you to enforce the obligation. You should consult with legal counsel.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    You really need to gather up all of your documentation and see a local domestic relations attorney TODAY.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A.
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A. | Michael D. Fluke
    Absolutely. If he took affirmative action to move the money, he is responsible for the portion that you were entitled to. The calculations can be complex and will likely require a forensic accountant and/or an actuary. Collecting may be even harder. I suggest you consult a local Family Law attorney to discuss your case in greater detail and learn all of your rights and options. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Law Office of Patricia Van Haren
    Law Office of Patricia Van Haren | Patricia Van Haren
    Your paperwork should have provided that his pension be rolled over into a plan in your name at the time of the divorce. You should immediately file a contempt action to recover the value of the pension as it existed at the time of the divorce. Your husband will be required to account for where the pension money went. You may also recover your attorney fees and costs if your husband was acting in bad faith.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC | Patrick Meriwether
    In order to properly answer this question, a lawyer would need to review the settlement agreement. In addition, he would need to know more about the pension itself. It is possible that the ex-husband would be liable under a contempt of court action.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock | Arlene D. Kock
    If you have a court order awarding you 1/3 and he has not paid, the best solution is to file a motion requesting enforcement of the award. If there was investment growth to the retirement value, you should ask for that growth. If he lost money on the investment ,then the best approach is to ask for the value of the retirement at time of the divorce award plus legal interest on the unpaid amount.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    If you handled things right you had a lawyer and the lawyer drafted a QDRO and the money would have been distributed then. If something went awry with that, call your lawyer. If you were your own lawyer and failed to do a QDRO, you messed up badly. Hire a lawyer now to see if it's too late to fix things. Cases with retirement plans are far too complex to ever try pro se.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Willick Law Group
    Willick Law Group | Marshal S. Willick
    Short version: Yes, probably with interest and dividends from that date to this one. Depending on what kind of pension it was, an order (QDRO, COAP, etc.) should have been prepared at the time of divorce that would have prevented your current problem - but it should still be possible to recover what you are owed. Do not wait - you want to accomplish this ASAP, and certainly while everyone is still alive. Start with a consultation with counsel who fully understands retirement benefits in divorce.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    Yes. The investments can be attached for your benefit. You need an attorney for this.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    Yes you are still entitled to whatever the divorce agreement says. But, entitlement and enforcement are two different things. Without knowing exactly what kind of pension is involved, it isn't possible to tell you what you can do now (or what should have been done 12 years ago) to collect your share. Generally, there should have been separate court order entered (possibly what is called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO) to require the pension plan administrator to pay your share directly to you. If that wasn't done, and if there is really nothing left, there may not be any practical remedy. You need to consult an attorney who can examine the facts and case history and then advise you of the potential remedies available to you.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation | Paul Wallin
    The answer is very likely yes. You need to bring in your final divorce settlement to our office and we can review it with you and tell you what your best legal course is.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law | Gary Moore
    If the money is "gone" he will have to make it undone.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A.
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A. | Robert F. Davies, Esq.
    I would need a lot more information to answer this question. You should have had a court order on this, probably in the form of a QDRO which divided the pension interests, but I would need more information to tell you about this. I can help you with this. And I will tell you up front what it will cost to do this for you. Give me a call, make an appointment to come see me, and let's get moving on this for you. No charge for the telephone call and no charge for the first office visit.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We recommend that you sit down with a divorce attorney and go over the terms of your divorce settlement agreement to determine whether or not it would be feasible or advisable for you to elect to bring a contempt action. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller | Jody A. Miller
    It depends on what the divorce decree says. This question cannot be answered with the information you put in your question. You need to take the decree to a family law attorney and have them assess the situation.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Bagwell Holt Smith Jones & Crowson, P.A.
    Bagwell Holt Smith Jones & Crowson, P.A. | John G. Miskey IV
    You may have a good claim for a distributive award of the value of your agreement. Consult with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 8/2/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    Maybe. You need to show a family law attorney the specific language in your decree, tell him or her all the facts, and seek his/her opinion on the remedies available for enforcing your decree of dissolution and access your chances of success and collection.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/2/2011
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