Court: Marital Asset Agreement Remains in Effect

November 9, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man whose ex-wife had substantial holdings in a Honeywell stock option plan has lost another legal skirmish in his battle for a distribution from the stock plan.

>The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that the antenuptial agreement the couple signed in September 1980 when they were married was still in effect. This was despite John Savage’s argument that the asset agreement should be disregarded because the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) precluded it.  

>According to the court, John Savage owned a sales business while Susan Savage-Keough was a secretary at the Bendix Corporation and participated in the option plan, which, because of mergers, is now known as the Honeywell Savings & Stock Ownership Plan. Writing for the court, Judge Michael Winkelstein said Susan Savage-Keough eventually developed a “substantial” interest in the plan.

>Winklestein said ERISA provisions would be more relevant in a discussion about a divorcing spouse’s access to survivor benefits.

“New Jersey domestic relations law permits the enforcement of a premarital agreement in which a party waives his or her future rights to a spouse’s pension plan,” Winklestein wrote. “In our view, ERISA does not preclude a waiver so long as the participant’s survivor benefits are not at issue.”

>The ruling is at  http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a5704-02.pdf .

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