Divorce Affects Other NYSLRS Benefits

We’ve written before about how divorce may affect your pension benefit. However, NYSLRS members have other benefits besides their pension, and divorce may affect some of them as well.

NYSLRS must have an approved Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file to pay benefits to the ex-spouse of a member. The DRO is a court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, that gives NYSLRS specific instructions on how your benefits should be split.

divorce affects other NYSLRS benefits

Ordinary Death Benefit

A DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of your ordinary death benefit. This is the death benefit that would be payable to your beneficiaries if you die in active service (before retiring) so you should file the DRO with NYSLRS as soon as it’s officially accepted by the court. Be sure to choose additional beneficiaries for any remainder of the benefit and submit your changes to NYSLRS. (If your designations conflict with the terms of the DRO, the DRO will take precedence over any other beneficiary designations.)

Post-Retirement Death Benefit

Most Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) are covered by a post-retirement death benefit. A DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of the benefit.

Accidental Death Benefit

Your accidental death benefit becomes available to specific beneficiaries if you die as a result of an on-the-job accident. Those beneficiaries are designated by law, and only those beneficiaries may receive this benefit — even if there is a DRO.


NYSLRS members who meet eligibility requirements can borrow a certain percentage of their contribution balance. DROs may be written to prohibit members from taking future loans.

Outstanding loan balances at retirement reduce retirees’ pension benefits. The ex-spouse’s share of the pension will also be reduced unless the DRO specifically provides that the ex-spouse’s share be calculated without reference to outstanding loans.

Contribution Refunds

Occasionally, NYSLRS may refund a member’s contributions because of a tier reinstatement, membership withdrawal or membership transfer. Some members are eligible to make voluntary contributions and withdraw them as excess contributions. Generally, if a DRO doesn’t mention a contribution refund, the member will receive the full amount.

Divorce, Annulments, Separation and Your Beneficiaries

As of July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain death benefits are automatically revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. If you are divorced, it is especially important to review your beneficiary designations to ensure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes and your divorce agreement.  

The best way to view and update your death benefit beneficiaries is by using Retirement Online. You can also submit a paper designation of beneficiary form. Visit our View and Update Your Beneficiaries page for more information and instructions. If you are already retired, visit our Death Benefit page for retirees for information about available death benefits and how to update your beneficiaries and their contact information.

Visit our How Divorce Can Affect NYSLRS Benefits page for more information, including how divorce can affect service credit, disability benefits or retiree cost-of-living adjustments.

14 thoughts on “Divorce Affects Other NYSLRS Benefits

  1. Dominick Rigogliosi

    If I had a DRO post-divorce, and my ex and I had signed a separation agreement wavering all rights to each of our pension, and I had option Full-pop-up, do I get the extra money back I paid into that option so she would get my pension when I would have died.

    1. NYSLRS

      Members cannot change their pension payment option or, for joint allowance options, their option beneficiary, once their retirement is effective.

      For account-specific questions, please message our customer service representatives using our secure contact form. Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

  2. Mani Shah

    If both spouses are enrolled in a retirement plan (Both are state employee Tier 4) and get divorce or legally separated, how the pension benefits are impact.

    1. NYSLRS

      In New York State, retirement benefits earned by NYSLRS members are considered marital property. So, if you get a divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension. To divide your retirement benefits after a divorce, NYSLRS needs a domestic relations order (DRO). This is a court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, that gives specific instructions on how your benefits should be split.

      You can find basic information about divorce and DROs in our Divorce and Your Pension blog post, and read Divorce and Your Benefits on our website for details.

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      If you become divorced during your retirement, your retirement benefit may be considered a marital asset and subject to equitable distribution. NYSLRS makes retirement benefit payments to an ex-spouse if there is a valid Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file instructing us to do so.

      Read Divorce and Your Benefits for more information including formulas for determining an ex-spouse’s share, a template you can use to draft a DRO and how to avoid a rejected DRO.

    1. NYSLRS

      For information about Tier 1 benefits, please check your retirement plan booklet, which you can find on our Publications page.

      For information about how divorce could impact your specific situation, please email our customer service representatives using our secure email form. Filling out the secure form allows them to safely contact you about your personal account information.

    2. Judith Soscia

      In the event of ex spouse’s death does the monthly amount received by ex spouse revert back to retiree? And what is entailed in contacting retirement system?

      1. NYSLRS

        If the ex-spouse dies, NYSLRS will stop payments to the ex-spouse after receiving a copy of the certified death certificate. The ex-spouse’s share of the pension will then be paid to the retiree, retroactive to the date NYSLRS is notified of the ex-spouse’s death. For more information, you can visit our Divorce and Your Benefits page.

  3. Carla McKain

    Can a member use a DRO to give only the marital share of a death benefit to the ex-spouse, leaving the remainder to another beneficiary?

    Also, I’ve never seen mention of the accidental death benefit as something that can be divided in a DRO. Is it possible to provide the marital share of that benefit in a DRO?

    1. Kenneth ferguson

      I have a bad feeling that my ex never filed a dro..how do I find out if there is one on file and If not what do I have to do?


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