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Divorce and Your Benefits

Payments to Alternate Payee

  1. I am an ex-spouse of a Participant. My separation agreement (or judgment of divorce) says that I am entitled to a share of the pension. Am I automatically entitled to a share of the pension?
  2. I am an ex-spouse of a Participant entitled to a share of the pension. Can I have a cash payout of my interest in the pension?
  3. Can an ex-spouse leave his or her share to someone else when he/she dies?
  4. Can an ex-spouse obtain benefits as soon as the Participant is eligible to retire?
  5. My ex-spouse is a Participant of the Retirement System. He or she owes me child support (or alimony). Can I collect part of his or her pension for child support?
  6. Will an Income Execution served on my employer and deducted from my salary carry over to my pension?
  7. I will be entitled to a portion of my ex-spouse’s retirement. Will I get this benefit for the rest of my life when he or she retires?
  8. My ex-spouse is retired and I am receiving a portion of his or her retirement. Will I get this benefit for the rest of my life?
  9. What if the Participant fails to designate the ex-spouse as an option beneficiary when he or she retires?
  10. Will my ex-spouse receive advance or partial pay based on my estimated benefits while the Retirement System is calculating my pension benefit?
  11. I am applying for a disability retirement and I am divorced (or going through a divorce). Will my ex-spouse be entitled to a share of my disability pension?
  12. I am the ex-spouse of an active Participant. The Domestic Relations Order (DRO) entitles me to a share of his or her pre-retirement death benefit. Can I find out whether he or she has designated me as beneficiary?
  13. I am a Tier 1 or 2 member and am eligible to receive Article 19 service at retirement. Will the calculation of my ex-spouse’s distribution include this additional service (applies also to early retirement incentives)?
  14. Will my ex-spouse’s share of my pension be based, in part, on my military service credit?
  15. I am planning to purchase service credit. Will this affect my ex-spouse’s share?
  16. I am divorced with a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file. May I take a loan?
  17. Is my ex-spouse entitled to a share of my cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
  18. I am the ex-spouse of a deceased Participant. As the Participant’s option beneficiary, I receive a continuing benefit. Will I be eligible for Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)?
  19. I will be receiving a refund of my contributions as a result of tier reinstatement (or withdrawal). Is my ex-spouse entitled to a portion of this refund?
  20. My ex-spouse is entitled to a share of my pension when I retire. Will I have to pay tax on his or her share?
  21. How do you determine who pays for the cost of a Joint Allowance (survivorship) option?
  22. If I transfer to another retirement system, will a new Domestic Relations Order (DRO) have to be served on that system?
  23. My divorce was not granted in New York State. Will the Retirement System accept an out-of-state Domestic Relations Order (DRO)?
  24. When there are competing Domestic Relations Order (DRO) and child support orders, which takes precedence?
  1. I am an ex-spouse of a Participant. My separation agreement (or judgment of divorce) says that I am entitled to a share of the pension. Am I automatically entitled to a share of the pension?

    The Retirement System can only pay you a share of your ex-spouse’s pension if a valid Domestic Relations Order (DRO) is on file and your ex-spouse has already retired. The Retirement System will not make payment to you based on a separation agreement or judgment of divorce alone.

  2. I am an ex-spouse of a Participant entitled to a share of the pension. Can I have a cash payout of my interest in the pension?

    No, you cannot obtain a cash payout of your interest in the Participant’s pension benefits.

  3. Can an ex-spouse leave his or her share to someone else when he/she dies?

    No, an ex-spouse cannot designate a beneficiary to receive his or her share of the pension when he/she dies.

  4. Can an ex-spouse obtain benefits as soon as the Participant is eligible to retire?

    No, an ex-spouse cannot obtain any benefits until the Participant actually retires and his or her pension payments have begun.

  5. My ex-spouse is a Participant of the Retirement System. He or she owes me child support (or alimony). Can I collect part of his or her pension for child support?

    Yes, but you must have an income execution for support to obtain child support or alimony payments. For assistance in obtaining an income execution, contact your county office for child support services. You can also collect child support by using a Domestic Relations Order. Please note that we cannot make payments to you until the Participant actually retires and his or her pension payments have begun.

  6. Will an income execution served on my employer and deducted from my salary carry over to my pension?

    No. A new income execution would have to be served on the Retirement System.

  7. I will be entitled to a portion of my ex-spouse’s retirement. Will I get this benefit for the rest of my life when he or she retires?

    It will depend on the precise wording of the Domestic Relations Order (DRO). If the DRO requires the Participant to designate you as the beneficiary of a lifetime option, you will receive the benefit for your lifetime. If not, the Retirement System will not interpret the DRO to include it and your payments will terminate upon the Participant’s death.

  8. My ex-spouse is retired and I am receiving a portion of his or her retirement. Will I get this benefit for the rest of my life?

    It depends on whether he or she elected a Joint Allowance (survivorship) option naming you as beneficiary at the time of retirement. If the Participant did not elect a Joint Allowance, then all payments will end upon the Participant’s death. If the Participant did elect a Joint Allowance option at the time of retirement and you are the beneficiary, then you will continue to receive payments for your lifetime.

  9. What if the Participant fails to designate the ex-spouse as an option beneficiary when he or she retires?

    If there is a valid Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file providing the ex-spouse with a Joint Allowance (survivorship) option benefit, the Retirement System will require the Participant to make that election before processing his or her retirement.

  10. Will my ex-spouse receive advance or partial pay based on my estimated benefits while the Retirement System is calculating my pension benefit?

    No, however once your retirement benefit is finalized, your ex-spouse will receive a lump sum payment retroactive to your date of retirement. Please note that this only applies to situations where the signed Domestic Relations Order (DRO) is on file before the retirement is finalized.

  11. I am applying for a disability retirement and I am divorced (or going through a divorce). Will my ex-spouse be entitled to a share of my disability pension?

    Yes. The courts have held that a disability pension is subject to distribution; however, the court may limit your ex-spouse to a share of what a hypothetical service pension would have paid you. The Domestic Relations Order (DRO) must include specific language regarding this distribution.

  12. I am the ex-spouse of an active Participant. The Domestic Relations Order (DRO) entitles me to a share of his or her pre-retirement death benefit. Can I find out whether he or she has designated me as beneficiary?

    If you send a written request to our Matrimonial Unit, their response will let you know if you are a designated beneficiary. The Retirement System will not, however, provide you with the identities of any other designated beneficiaries.

  13. I am a Tier 1 or 2 member and eligible to receive Article 19 service at retirement. Will the calculation of my ex-spouse’s distribution include this additional service (applies also to early retirement incentives)?

    This will depend on the precise wording of the Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file. If the DRO lists a fixed number of months or years in the numerator of the Majauskas formula, the Retirement System will not apportion Article 19 or incentive service. However, if the DRO requires us to calculate all marital service between two dates (i.e. the date of marriage and the date of the commencement of divorce) then we will pro-rate the additional service into the numerator, and include the total of the additional service in the denominator.

  14. Will my ex-spouse’s share of my pension be based, in part, on my military service credit?

    Any military service you purchase will be added to your total service credit at retirement. Since your total service credit increases but the service credit for the duration of the marriage remains the same, the percentage of your ex-spouse’s share is reduced. Proportionally, you will receive a greater increase from the purchase of military service than your ex-spouse. If you do not want military service used in the calculation at all, the Domestic Relations Order (DRO) must reflect that.

  15. I am planning to purchase service credit. Will this affect my ex-spouse’s share?

    Possibly, but, as in the case of military service, the overall gain to you may not be reflected in a gain to your ex-spouse. The purchase of service credit usually reduces the percentage share for the ex-spouse.

  16. I am divorced with a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file. May I take a loan?

    This will depend on whether the court permits you to take a loan. Many DROs are silent on the issue of loans. Unless they are specifically prohibited by the DRO, the Retirement System will permit loans. However, some DROs require that the Retirement System calculate the ex-spouse’s share without regard to any outstanding loans at the time of retirement. If this is the case, the ex-spouse’s share will be calculated as if the pension had not been reduced by the loan and the Participant will bear the cost of the full reduction.

  17. Is my ex-spouse entitled to a share of my cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?

    Your ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of your COLA, as part of his or her share of your monthly pension benefit. The Retirement System will review the Domestic Relations Order (DRO) to determine whether it addresses a COLA distribution. Unless otherwise indicated, the Retirement System will generally interpret a DRO to require that an ex-spouse receive a share of the COLA.

  18. I am the ex-spouse of a deceased Participant. As the Participant’s option beneficiary, I receive a continuing benefit. Will I be eligible for Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)?

    No. To be eligible for COLA, an option beneficiary must be a spouse at the time of the Participant’s death. Even if a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) entitled an ex-spouse to COLA from the Participant’s monthly retirement benefit while the Participant was alive, he or she will not be entitled to COLA after the Participant has died and the option benefit is paid.

  19. I will be receiving a refund of my contributions as a result of tier reinstatement (or withdrawal). Is my ex-spouse entitled to a portion of this refund?

    The Domestic Relations Order (DRO) may specifically require that the refund be paid to the Participant or it may require a portion be distributed to the ex-spouse. If the DRO is completely silent on this issue, the refund will be sent to the Participant alone.

  20. My ex-spouse is entitled to a share of my pension when I retire. Will I have to pay tax on his or her share?

    No. The Retirement System will provide you and your ex-spouse with your own 1099-R forms and you will each be responsible for your own taxes.

  21. How do you determine who pays for the cost of a Joint Allowance (survivorship) option?

    The terms of the Domestic Relations Order (DRO) will dictate who pays for the cost of the option. Either party can bear the entire cost of the option or it can be shared proportionately.

  22. If I transfer to another retirement system, will a new Domestic Relations Order (DRO) have to be served on that system?

    Yes, the DRO must specifically identify the retirement system, so a new DRO would be required.

  23. My divorce was not granted in New York State. Will the Retirement System accept an out-of-state Domestic Relations Order (DRO)?

    The Retirement System will accept an out-of-state DRO if it is registered with a New York court prior to being submitted to us. As an alternative, the Participant can sign a Consent to New York Jurisdiction and Release form Adobe pdf consenting to the laws of New York State and releasing the Retirement System from any liability whatsoever as a consequence of any payments based upon the order.

  24. When there are competing Domestic Relations Order (DRO) and child support orders, which takes precedence?

    When executing multiple support orders, the Retirement System will deduct the DRO prior to any deductions for child support. This is because under a DRO, the Participant’s pension has been declared marital property for equitable distribution and is not considered part of the Participant’s “disposable income.” Marital property is deducted first from gross income, and then what is left (after pension loans, other garnishes, etc.) is considered “disposable income,” for purposes of child support.