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Divorce and your benefits

gavel made of rolled up stack of $100 dollar bills

One aspect of retirement planning some members may not consider is how a divorce may affect their retirement benefit. In New York state, retirement benefits earned by members of the Employees’ Retirement System are considered marital property. If you file for divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension.

The most common distribution formula for a public pension was established by the New York State Court of Appeals in Majauskas v. Majauskas. This formula provides an ex-spouse with one-half of the part of a member’s pension that was earned during the marriage. Other ways to divide pension benefits include a flat dollar amount or a flat percentage of the benefit.

The division of benefits is determined by the terms of the Domestic Relations Order — a court order that gives specific instruction on how benefits should be split. A DRO must be on file with the retirement system in order for pension payments to be made to the ex-spouse of a member. All DROs are subject to review and acceptance by the ERS Matrimonial Bureau.

If your pension benefits will be affected by divorce, your DRO should be submitted to ERS 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.

Visit osc.state.ny.us/retirement/members/divorce/overview for more information, including other ERS benefits that may be affected by divorce, formulas for determining an ex-spouse’s share, a template you can use to draft a DRO, how to avoid a rejected DRO and more.

NYSUT ERS consultants

Most NYSUT School-Related Professionals* belong to the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System (ERS). Contact any one of our consultants for assistance.

Tarrytown Region:
Trudi Davis | 914-592-4411

Nassau/Suffolk Region:
Karen McLean | 518-625-1966

North Country/Potsdam Region:
Cheryl Rockhill | 518-240-8890

Syracuse Region:
Virginline Woodall | 518-617-0268

* Certified teaching assistants belong to the state TRS.

Thomas DiNapoli

In every issue, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, administrative head of the State and Local Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and trustee of the Common Retirement Fund, provides information on the System, which delivers retirement benefits to many NYSUT School-Related Professionals and other support staff. If you are an ERS member with a question of general interest, email united@nysut.org.

For immediate assistance, call the ERS Contact Center toll-free at 866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Capital District.