The Spouse Equity Act

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from employees who are either separated or divorced (or soon will be), plus a few whose marriages are or will be annulled. To answer their questions I’ve had to brush up on the Spouse Equity Act. What I’ve learned is that a court order related to any of these situations can have a profound impact on future retirement benefits.

A court order can divide your retirement annuity, block or divide a refund of your retirement contributions, and provide for a survivor annuity if you die. In addition, it can allow a former spouse to continue coverage under the FEHB program, require you to assign your FEGLI benefits to that former spouse or your children, and even lay claim to some of the money in your Thrift Saving Plan (TSP) account.

The legal document that controls what happens is the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). However, to be binding on you, it must conform to the legal requirements that apply exclusively to CSRS and FERS. That’s because CSRS and FERS are exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which applies to everyone else.

To help you understand these benefits in more detail, FEDweek has created a free download called “Federal Pay and Benefits 101.”

You’ll find more solid facts about your pay system, retirement, life insurance, health insurance, survivor benefits, flexible spending account options, overtime pay, recruiting, retention and relocation incentives, annual leave and sick leave policies, holidays, long-term care insurance, the government’s own 401k-styled Thrift Savings Plan program (including loans), job protections and appeals, and how procedures can help you when your agency is downsizing.

There is much more packed into this compact, no nonsense download. Go to https://www.fedweek.com/reports/federal-employee-pay-benefits-101-2014-update/ to download it now.