Divorce Decrees

By Tammy Flanagan

April 6, 2012

It’s spring, and love is in the air. I wish I could say that love and marriage last forever, but sometimes they don’t. Divorces happen, and they can affect retirement benefits.

Here is a recent email I received from a retiree under the Civil Service Retirement System who is divorced from a current federal employee under CSRS Offset . This means the current employee is eligible for retirement under the same rules as other CSRS employees, but while she is employed, she is required to pay into Social Security. That reduces her CSRS contributions and ultimately will cause a cut (that’s the “offset” part) to her CSRS retirement when she qualifies for Social Security after she retires.

Here’s what the retiree wrote:

In all the retirement classes I took, and in my attempts to review Office of Personnel Management materials, and emails to OPM, I have not been able to learn what the process is when OPM contacts a person who is due court- ordered benefits.

OPM has told me that the court order that I submitted 16 years ago is acceptable for processing. However, OPM will not tell me the process by which I am contacted once my ex-spouse retires. … Does OPM notify me (given that the court order is on file)? Is it when my ex-spouse retires? When they are determining benefits for my ex-spouse? Or once the final benefits have been determined (including the apportionment)?

Here’s what I told him:

As the ex-spouse, it’s up to you to apply for retirement benefits that were awarded to you as a result of your final divorce agreement. OPM will agree to use what is known as a “Court Order Acceptable for Processing” as the basis to divide retirement benefits and award survivor annuities under CSRS and the Federal Employees Retirement System. Private sector pension plans and state government plans use a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to perform the function of dividing retirement benefits, but OPM does not recognize QDROs.

Here’s more information from OPM on Court-Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses. It includes the following points:

(Image via Mincemeat /Shutterstock.com)

By Tammy Flanagan

April 6, 2012