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When Government Employees Divorce

Spouses and family members enrolled in a government employee’s benefit plans are officially linked to the government entity and may be entitled to benefits and retirement income even after a divorce. In cases where the government employee fails to enroll them in their benefit plans, they may still receive some benefits if a court orders them as part of the divorce agreement.

Division of Marital Assets

In every divorce, the division of assets is the key to reaching a settlement that is fair to both parties. Such settlements are made part of the final divorce agreement as approved by the court. When an employee of the Federal government divorces, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers the division of an employee’s benefits to a former spouse and dependents in accordance with the court-approved divorce agreement

The Surprise—Division of Assets Without Employee Consent

Government employees may be subject to an additional division of retirement income beyond those ordered by the court and without their consent. Beginning in 2016, the OPM enacted a rule that allows a former spouse to receive a portion of the employee’s Supplemental Annuity if they are already entitled to a share of the Basic Retirement Annuity.

This additional division happens even if it is not specified in the court-ordered settlement. The resulting reduction of the employee’s annuity income can have a serious impact on their quality of life after retirement.

Additional Benefits for Divorced Spouses

Generally, for a divorced spouse to qualify for health and survivor benefits, they must meet these criteria:

  • They are covered under the employee’s Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan at least one day in the eighteen months before the divorce
  • They are entitled to receive a portion of the employee’s  retirement annuity
  • They have not remarried before the age of fifty-five

Qualifying former spouses may receive a survivor benefit in the event of the employee’s death. Additionally, the Spouse Equity Act provides a way for them to continue health coverage under the same benefits plan as their spouse as long as they pay the premiums.

Far-Reaching Consequences

The impact of divorce on government employee benefits can have far-reaching consequences on their retirement. An understanding of the OPM’s policies in administering government benefits after divorce is essential to ensuring a fair and equitable divorce settlement.

Conflict between man and woman standing on either side of a door

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois. 

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