Courts consider pensions marital property. So, if you file for divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension or other NYSLRS benefits. The process for dividing retirement assets after a divorce can be complex. Here are four things you need to know:
1. NYSLRS Requires a DRO
To divide your NYSLRS benefits, we need a domestic relations order (DRO). This court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be distributed. NYSLRS provides on online fillable DRO that complies with the plan’s requirements for implementation. You are not required to use the online form; however, the System will give priority review to these DROs since the language is pre-approved.
2. A Judge has to Approve Your DRO
Before we can implement a DRO, a trial court judge must review and sign it, and you need to file it with the appropriate County Clerk’s Office. That can be a lengthy process; our Matrimonial Bureau can check your DRO for compliance with the law before you submit the draft order to the court. This way, if the DRO does not meet the requirements, you will have a chance to make revisions.
Once a judge does sign off, we’ll need a certified copy of the DRO and your judgment of divorce. We start payments to your ex-spouse once we’ve calculated and finalized your retirement benefit. If we receive the DRO and judgment before we finalize your retirement benefit, we’ll make retroactive payments back to your date of retirement.
3. Some Beneficiary Designations are Revoked
Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is always important, but after a divorce, it’s essential to make sure 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. Please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders and review our DRO FAQs before you finalize your divorce.
4. Contact an Attorney with DRO Experience
This last one is not a fact, but it’s a good idea. A lawyer, who’s worked with DROs previously, can help ensure the DRO you submit to the court fairly represents the intentions of both parties.
How Can NYSLRS Help?
To submit your proposed DRO for review, email it, along with scanned copies of your judgment of divorce, to our Matrimonial Bureau at email@example.com. For DRO proposals prepared using our online worksheet, the review process is simplified and we can complete our review faster.
If you have any questions about divorce and your benefits, please contact our Hearing Administration and Matrimonial Bureau staff.
NYSLRS 110 State Street
Mail Drop 7-9
Albany, New York 12244