February 2013
January 25, 2013

ERS: Divorcing? Your pension may be affected

Author: State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Source: NYSUT United

In the event of a divorce, your ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of your pension or other New York State & Local Employees' Retirement System (ERS) benefits. Divorcing ERS members need to know that any division of your retirement benefits must be stated in the form of a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) — a court order that gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be distributed.

Q: Where can I find out more about retirement benefits and divorce?

A: You should review your plan booklet, available on our website at www.osc.state.ny.us/retirement/publications/index.php, to learn how your retirement benefits can be affected by divorce. You can find some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about DROs at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/members/divorce/faq/index.php.

Q: How do I create a DRO?

A: We recently developed an easy, online worksheet which helps you create your own DRO in the proper format. Access the worksheet at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/members/divorce/dro_form/index.php. Just enter your tier, plan, and employment status, and answer the questions that follow. Then submit a copy of your proposed DRO to us for review before you submit it to the court. You can email it, along with scanned copies of your judgment of divorce, to our Matrimonial Bureau at dro@osc.state.ny.us. DRO proposals that are prepared using this form will be given priority review.

Q: Can a DRO be drafted without using the online worksheet?

A: Yes. If an individually created DRO is used, you must comply with our guidelines, which are available at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/members/divorce/dro_guide/index.php.
Keep a copy of your draft DRO for your records and submit a copy to us for review. Our Matrimonial Bureau must review your DRO for compliance with the law before you submit the draft order to the court. If the DRO doesn't meet the requirements, you will have a chance to make revisions.

Q: When will payments to my ex-spouse begin?

A: Once we approve your DRO, it must be signed by a trial court judge and entered with the appropriate court clerk. We require a certified copy of the signed DRO and a copy of your judgment of divorce prior to implementing the terms of the DRO. Payments will start when your retirement benefit is calculated and finalized, and will be retroactive to your date of retirement if we receive the DRO and judgment of divorce before your retirement benefit is finalized.

Q: How can I get more information?

A: You can contact our Hearing Administration & Matrimonial Bureau staff by email at dro@osc.state.ny.us, by writing to 110 State Street – Mail Drop 7-9, Albany, New York 12244, or by fax at 518-474-7794.