State Retirement Plans and Divorce
Each state retirement system has its own rules relating to the division of state employees' pensions in divorce proceedings. Below is basic information on each state retirement system's rules.
Why does this matter?
A pension can be the most valuable asset of a marriage. When going through a divorce, both parties to the marriage should know whether the state government employee's pension or other retirement plan asset can be divided, whether survivors benefits can be paid to a widow or widower, and what information must be included in any state court Domestic Relations Order to ensure that the retirement system will make the court-ordered payments. The Pension Rights Center's book, Your Pension Rights at Divorce provides helpful information on spousal pension rights. Chapter 8 [PDF] contains information about rights at divorce under state retirement systems.
A DRO is a state domestic relations court order that allows for the division of assets in a divorce. Some states have special types of DROs for retirement plan assets. These are often called Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs). The DRO tells the retirement system how much the employee and ex-spouse are to be paid, when they are to be paid, and the form of payment. If a state retirement system does not permit the division of government employees' pensions at divorce, it may be possible for ex-spouses to receive other property, for example a house or liquid assets, of equal in value to the pension share and survivors benefits.
If you want to know what a state’s retirement system rules are under divorce, click on the state in the map below for a link to the state plan. (11/4/2011)
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If you have a problem with your retirement plan, free help may be available from the U.S. Administration on Aging's network of Pension Counseling and Information Projects. Find help now.
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Did You Know?
A joint-and-survivor annuity is an annuity that pays a monthly benefit over the lives of the participant and his or her surviving spouse. This is the default form of benefit for married participants in most defined benefit pension plans. Because it lasts for the life of both the worker and the spouse, a joint-and-survivor annuity typically results in a lower monthly benefit payment than a single-life annuity.