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Divorce and Your Benefits

Introduction

The Retirement System offers defined benefit retirement plans based on years of credited service, salary, membership tier and retirement plan. When a Participant retires, he or she will receive a monthly benefit paid for his or her lifetime and depending on which option is chosen, that of his or her beneficiary.

The pension that a Participant is entitled to receive is a benefit held in trust by the Retirement System and the Participant is considered the beneficiary of that trust. The Participant cannot assign retirement benefits to another person and, because the Retirement System has no legal relationship with an ex-spouse, no payments will be made to an ex-spouse based on a separation agreement or judgment of divorce alone.

However, because a pension is considered marital property and is often divided between spouses when a marriage ends, there are times when the Retirement System will pay a portion of a Participant’s pension to an ex-spouse.

This guide provides basic information about how the Retirement System administers Domestic Relations Orders (DROs). It will also answer questions about some of the benefits provided to Participants, the impact a DRO might have on a Participant’s benefits and the procedures followed when a DRO is received by the Retirement System. You may also find our DRO Frequently Asked Questions helpful.

This information is based on the Retirement System’s current understanding of the law. It is not intended to be a substitute for New York law or the rules and regulations governing the Retirement System, which may be subject to change.

This guide is not intended to provide legal advice to Participants or their ex-spouses and may not be relied upon for that purpose. Participants, ex-spouses and other interested parties are strongly urged to seek the advice of an attorney regarding the matters discussed herein.