The New York State Court of Appeals has determined that retirement benefits are marital property and subject to equitable distribution. “Equitable distribution” is the division of marital assets between spouses after the marriage has ended. The division must be stated in the form of a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) if we are to pay a portion of your pension to your ex-spouse.
A 55th gives us specific direction on how your retirement benefits should be divided. However, it does not allow for a distribution of your pension until you actually retire, die or terminate membership.
If you are divorced, it is especially important to review your beneficiary designations to ensure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes. Effective July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain benefits are revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. An exception applies if the terms of a 55th specify otherwise. Beneficiary designations may be revoked for the Ordinary Death Benefit, Cash Refund Initial Value option (Tier 1), Cash Refund Contributions option (Tiers 1, 2 and 3) and Five and Ten Year Certain options. The Survivor Benefit beneficiary designations made by retirees who chose the Single Life Allowance option or certain alternative options may also be revoked.
For more information on how your pension benefits may be affected by divorce, consult your attorney, contact our Matrimonial Bureau, read our guide to Domestic Relations Orders and review our Divorce FAQs.