You have a pension plan, but you're not yet old enough to get the payments. That is to say, the plan hasn't matured yet. You are vested, so you're going to get that money, but you haven't been getting or using the checks at this point.
You and your spouse decide to get a divorce. Your spouse claims that he or she owns half of that pension. You think that's outlandish; how can your spouse claim benefits that you're not even getting yet?
In reality, your spouse may be right. Typically, your spouse does have a right to a percentage -- often half -- of the pension that was earned while the two of you were married.
If you got married before you took the job and earned the entire pension, that claim is on the whole thing. If you had the job and had earned a portion of the pension before tying the knot, that portion is likely yours alone, but your spouse has a claim to the part of the benefits earned after you married.
That doesn't mean you'll lose it all. If your spouse gets 50 percent and it will pay out $4,000 per month, you'll still get $2,000 when those checks start arriving. The other $2,000 will go to your spouse. You were both counting on it for retirement before the divorce, and he or she is still counting on it now. It's a marital asset, just as if you'd taken a portion of your paycheck and set it aside on your own.
Splitting pensions can get complicated. Make sure you know all of your legal rights in New York.
Source: New York Times, "Dividing the Pension after a Divorce," Jonathan Plutchok, accessed Jan. 18, 2018