Divorce and Your Pension

One aspect of retirement planning some members may not consider is how a divorce may affect their pension benefit. 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. The process for dividing retirement assets after a divorce is complicated, but here is some basic information.

Dividing Pension Benefits After a Divorce

A commonly used formula for distributing pension benefits, established by the State Court of Appeals (the Majauskas formula), provides an ex-spouse with a portion of your pension based on half of the service credit you earned while you were married.

For example, let’s say you worked in your public-sector job for 10 years before you married. Then you got married continued working in public service for another 20 years, and then divorced. After the divorce, you continued working in public service for an additional 10 years. You’d have 40 total years of service credit, but only 20 years of your service was earned during your marriage. Under the Majauskas formula, your ex-spouse would be entitled to the proceeds of half of the service credit you earned during the marriage (10 years of service), or a quarter of your pension.

Other ways to divide pension benefits include a flat dollar amount, a benefit based on a specific date or a flat percentage of the benefit.

divorce and your pension

Domestic Relations Orders

To divide your retirement benefits after a divorce, NYSLRS needs 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 split.

If your pension benefits will be affected by divorce, your DRO should be submitted to the Retirement System before you apply for retirement. We require a certified copy of the DRO, and it must be signed by a Supreme Court judge and entered as an official court document. We also require proof of divorce, such as a copy of the judgment of divorce. Failure to submit your DRO before you retire could result in a delay of your pension payments or an overpayment to you, which would need to be recovered by NYSLRS.

Learn More

Divorce may affect other NYSLRS benefits as well. 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.

37 thoughts on “Divorce and Your Pension

  1. Samantha White

    I am planning on getting married in a few months. I want to protect my pension in case we ever get divorced. Can I do this without getting a prenup?

    Reply
  2. Tony Yaniro

    I have a DRO from a previous marriage as it stands when I die my current wife of 28 years will get nothing and my ex will keep getting aprox $300 a month is there a way to split this payment so they both get more and do we have to have this in place before I retire?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      A Domestic Relations Order (DRO) is a legal document issued by the court that issued the judgment of divorce. A DRO gives NYSLRS specific instructions on how benefits should be divided. If you have questions about your DRO, you may wish to consult with an attorney.

      For account-specific information about your NYSLRS benefits, 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.

      Reply
  3. Brian N Orlando

    I worked 30 yrs in NYS I was married for the first 15 yrs. How does the calculation work since I was making $75k at the time of my divorce and I make $150k my final yrs before retiring?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      NYSLRS will make retirement benefit payments to an ex-spouse if there is a valid Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file instructing us to do so.

      You can find general information about Divorce and NYSLRS Pension Benefits on our website, including information about determining an ex-spouse’s share.

      For account-specific information, 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.

      Reply
  4. charles Bush

    My ex wife signed off on my retirement just recently, I have sent in the proper paperwork by certified mail. I am getting ready to retire but have not received any confirmation from the Retirement system, how can I find out if the paperwork has gone through. Thanks

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      For questions about your divorce paperwork, please contact our customer service representatives using our secure contact form. Filling out the secure form allows NYSLRS to safely contact you about your personal account information.

      Reply
  5. Crisele

    My divorce judgement includes the following language:
    “It is agreed, by and between parties, that they are mutually waiving any right, title or interests they may have in or to any pension interest…earned by either party”.
    Do I need a DRO? It seems I do not as the DRO is applicable when an ex-spouse is to receive a portion of the pension.

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      If the ex-spouse was not awarded an interest in any pension benefit payable by NYSLRS, the parties are not required to file divorce-related documents with NYSLRS. Parties are only required to provide a DRO and proof of divorce if the ex-spouse is entitled to a pension or death benefit payable by NYSLRS.

      Reply
  6. Bonnie Frost

    My husband will be retiring soon. When speaking to the retirement people he found out that his ex wife has not filed a DRO. What will happen if he retires and she still hasn’t filed this? Will he have to pay her a retro amount out of his own pocket?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      NYSLRS must have an approved DRO on file, and proof of divorce, to make direct pension payments to an ex-spouse of a member.

      Your husband can submit the DRO. Information about submitting a DRO is available on our website.

      Until a DRO is received, the parties are responsible for adhering to any requirements or restrictions arising from the divorce action.

      Reply
  7. Joseph Hoffman

    I filed divorce in 2011 with the court it finalized in 2014 what date do I use to calculate my ex spouse percentage of my pension? Do I calculate from 2011 or from 2014 that she delayed it to ?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      Any division of retirement benefits must be stated in the form of a Domestic Relations Order (DRO), a legal document issued by the same court that issued the judgment of divorce. A DRO gives NYSLRS specific instructions on how benefits should be divided.

      You can find guide to DRO’s and general information about determining the ex-spouse’s share on our website.

      If you have a DRO on file with NYSLRS, we suggest that you or your attorney email our Matrimonial Bureau for questions about your specific situation.

      Reply
  8. Maritza Torres

    I have a DRO after divorce on file with NYS. My ex-husband is younger than me by two years. If I retire first I know he would get a percentage of my retirement, but he has a lot more service credit with the state than I do, I’m not sure how it works out if I will get more money than he gets from me.

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      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. For more information about your specific situation, we suggest that you or your attorney email our Matrimonial Bureau at dro@osc.ny.gov.

      Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      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.

      If you have a DRO on file with NYSLRS, we suggest that you or your attorney email our Matrimonial Bureau for questions about your specific situation.

      Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      NYSLRS will make retirement benefit payments to an ex-spouse if there is a valid Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file instructing us to do so. For questions about prenuptial agreements, you may wish to consult an attorney.

      Reply
  9. Ernie

    Me and my ex-spouse work for the state I have my DRO does the state retirement aloud to go in my folder and give her a copy with out my permission?

    Reply
  10. Carol Kuszniaj

    I am divorced from my ex-husband who worked over 30 years. I received a large check in the mail without any explanation. I cannot get a hold of anybody online. I am entitled to half of his pension. Will I be getting a check every month now?

    Reply
  11. Paul

    Married 2008 legally separated 2022 Was a member the entire time .What would they be entitle to in percentage we did not do qdro yet .Also if they are entitled to a percentage do they get that the rest of there life even when the member dies ,also can i leave my pension to someone or does my pension benefit stop when i die .Is it true once you retire you can not change your beneficiary.

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      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. This court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, tells NYSLRS how your benefits should be split.

      Visit our website for information about options for determining the ex-spouse’s share, and drafting a DRO using the NYSLRS template.

      Some DROs require the member to choose a pension payment option that provides a continuing benefit to their ex-spouse if the member dies before them. Generally, this is one of the joint allowance options. Under joint allowance options, the member cannot designate additional option beneficiaries.

      You cannot change your pension beneficiary once your retirement is effective.

      For account-specific information about how this may apply in your situation, 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.

      Reply
  12. Scott Kotronis

    Since a prior divorce (with a DRO), I have remarried and have a daughter. If I die after retirement, will my current wife and daughter continue to receive my pension benefits?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      Depending on the terms of the DRO, retirement benefits could be affected in any of the following ways:

      • An ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of the pension;
      • A member may be required to name their ex-spouse as beneficiary of any pre-retirement death benefit payable;
      • A member may be required to name their ex-spouse as beneficiary of any post-retirement death benefit payable;
      • A member may be required to elect a pension payment option (sometimes called a retirement option) that provides a continuing benefit to their ex-spouse in the event of the member’s death;
      • An ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of a retiree’s cost-of-living adjustment.

      You can read Divorce and Your Benefits on our website for more information.

      For information specific to your situation, you can 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.

      Reply
    1. NYSLRS Post author

      Most members can use Retirement Online to create a NYSLRS pension estimate based on the salary and service information we have on file for them. Sign in to your Retirement Online account, go to the ‘My Account Summary’ area of your Account Homepage and click the “Estimate my Pension Benefit” button. You can enter different retirement dates and beneficiaries to see how they affect your potential benefit.

      Reply
  13. Everett Cass

    If I marry after retirement then divorce after 5 years for example , would my ex be entitled to any of my pension ?

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      In New York State, NYSLRS retirement benefits are considered marital property. So, if you get a divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension.

      NYSLRS can only pay benefits to an ex-spouse with an approved domestic relations order (DRO) on file. 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.

      For questions about how a post-retirement divorce may affect you benefits, we suggest that you or your attorney contact us using the secure email form on our website.

      Reply
  14. Teresa Pino

    Even if it says we expect nothing from each other in our divorce papers, do I still need to get a QDRO

    Reply
    1. NYSLRS

      A Domestic Relations Order (DRO) is a legal document that gives NYSLRS specific instructions on how retirement benefits should be divided after a divorce. If the ex-spouse was not awarded an interest in any pension benefit payable by NYSLRS, the parties are not required to file divorce-related documents with NYSLRS. The parties are only required to provide a DRO and proof of divorce if the ex-spouse is entitled to a pension or death benefit payable by NYSLRS.

      You can find general information about divorce and NYSLRS pension benefits on our website.

      Reply

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