We’ve written here before about divorce and your pension and what a DRO is. However, NYSLRS members have other benefits besides their pensions. Divorce and DROs may affect some of them as well.
Ordinary Death Benefit
As with your pension, a DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of your ordinary death benefit. You should file the DRO with NYSLRS as soon as it’s officially accepted by the court. We will prepare a custom beneficiary form that complies with the DRO. Also be sure to choose additional beneficiaries for any remainder of the benefit and submit your changes to NYSLRS.
Post-Retirement Ordinary Death Benefit
Most Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) are covered by a post-retirement ordinary death benefit. A DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of the benefit. You should file the DRO with NYSLRS as soon as it’s officially accepted by the court. Be sure to contact us to choose additional beneficiaries as allowed by the 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. Unless a DRO specifically provides that the ex-spouse’s share of the pension be calculated without reference to outstanding loans, the ex-spouse’s portion will also be reduced if a NYSLRS loan is not paid off before retirement.
Occasionally, NYSLRS may refund a member’s contributions because of a tier reinstatement, membership withdrawal, membership transfer or excess contributions. If the member is divorced and NYSLRS has a DRO on file, the DRO will determine whether a portion of the refund must go to the ex-spouse. Generally, if the DRO doesn’t mention a contributions refund, the member receives the full amount.
Keeping Your Ex-Spouse as Beneficiary
A divorce, annulment or judicial separation removes a member’s former spouse as beneficiary of certain death benefits and retirement options, except as provided by the divorce judgment or decree, or a DRO. So, if you have gone through a divorce, annulment or judicial separation and you do NOT have a DRO, you must resubmit your beneficiary designation to NYSLRS to retain your former spouse as a beneficiary.
The easiest way to do this is by using Retirement Online, our secure, self-service web application. You can also submit a Designation of Beneficiary form.
What about if you divorce, after you started collecting your pension ?
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.
does any of this apply to tier one?
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.
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?
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.
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?
For answers to your questions about domestic relations orders, you or your attorney can email our Matrimonial Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org.