I am a government employee who retired in 2013. My ex-wife will be receiving an annuity of 16% of my retirement. In the divorce decree there is a QDRO which stated that she is also entitled to the same percentage of survivor benefits. Our retirement councilor stated that “because she will be receiving her own annuity, she will not be entitled to a portion of my wife’s survivor benefits.”
OPM has just finalized my case and has awarded her the survivor benefits and the same percentage rate as the annuity. Is this correct?
Without a QDRO, a former spouse who becomes divorced before an annuity’s starting date may lose rights to survivor benefits protections. If the federal employee remarries, his/her new spouse may acquire the right to those survivor benefits. However, a QDRO can change that result significantly. If OPM has approved a QDRO, they will attempt to follow the language of the order. Therefore, if the QDRO states that an ex-spouse will be entitled to a percentage of both retirement and survivor benefits, and OPM accepts that QDRO, they will attempt to enact it. You may, however, be able to amend your QDRO in the court in which it was issued before submitting the amended QDRO to OPM to reflect your original intentions.
This response is written by Conor D. Dirks, associate attorney of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.
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