Divorce can affect your retirement benefits. The New York State Court of Appeals has determined that retirement benefits are marital property and can be divided between you and your ex-spouse when the marriage ends. This means that:
- Your ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of your pension.
- You may be required to name your ex-spouse as beneficiary of any pre-retirement death benefit payable.
- You may be required to elect a pension payment option that provides a continuing benefit to your ex-spouse when you die.
- Your ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of your COLA.
Any such division of your benefits must be stated in the form of a domestic relations order (DRO), which is a legal document that gives us specific instructions on how your retirement benefits should be divided when you retire, die or terminate your membership. We will also need a certified copy of your divorce decree.
NYSLRS offers an easy-to-complete, online DRO template. You don’t have to use the template, but because the review process is simplified for submissions using the DRO template, we can complete our review faster if you use it.
If you are divorced, it is especially important to review your beneficiary designations to ensure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes. As of July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain benefits are revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final, unless the terms of a DRO specify otherwise. Beneficiary designations may be revoked for the ordinary death benefit, the Cash Refund — Contributions option (Tiers 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 about how divorce may affect your retirement benefits and for our form-fillable DRO template, please visit our Divorce and Your Benefits page. If you have questions, you or your legal representative should email our Matrimonial Bureau.