If I’m divorcing a spouse who is a federal worker, can I keep any benefits?
The Law Governing Federal Employee Benefits
The majority of federal employees are enrolled in the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Unlike the retirement benefits available in the private sector, these benefits are not governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Instead, they are governed by Chapters 83 and 84 of Title 5 of the United States Code. These laws outline the rights of a current or former spouse of a current or former federal employee. Although the law outlined in the United State Code is similar to that of ERISA, there are differences.
The Law on Retirement Age
Under both Title 5 and ERISA, federal benefits can be divided as part of a divorce. Still, there are differences in when a spouse can receive federal benefits after divorce.
Under ERISA, a judge can order the payment of benefits to a former spouse when they reach retirement age. It does not matter if the former spouse has actually retired. They can still receive benefits while they are working. However, under Title 5, it is prohibited for any part of a FERS or CSRS to be paid until the federal employee has left their employment position, qualifies for a CSRS or FERS annuity, and they have applied for the annuity.
All Federal Employee Retirement Benefits are Different
Just because you are familiar with one federal retirement benefits plan does not mean you should assume another program is similar. These programs vastly differ from one another. For example, many plans restrict remarriage until a former spouse is of a certain age. If they remarry before that time, they are at risk of losing their benefits. The age restrictions in different plans vary.
It is essential to work with a South Carolina family lawyer who understands federal pensions. A lawyer can help you determine which type of benefits you are eligible for during divorce, and how you can hang onto them throughout the process, and after the divorce in finalized.
Former spouses are entitled to a portion of health insurance benefits the federal employee receives in many cases. The spouse must pay the insurance premiums, but they can choose from over 200 plans and use a group rate. Many people are not aware of this entitlement and so, former spouses are sometimes left with no health insurance at all after a divorce.
Federal employees and their families are also protected by Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI). It is important to know that the ownership of these plans can be assigned during the divorce process through a court order. Like every other part of the divorce process though, this must be done correctly.
What Happens to My Federal Pension After Divorce? We Can Help You
The above are just a few benefits federal employees enjoy. If you or your spouse works for the federal government and you are getting a divorce, our South Carolina family lawyer at The Peck Law Firm can help. Call us today at 843-631-7117 or contact us online to schedule a consultation so we can review your case.