Divorcing After Retirement
When a divorce occurs, California law recognizes the spouse or registered domestic partner to have community property (sharing of household) rights. Retirement benefits earned during your marriage or partnership are considered community property assets and must be considered in your property settlement agreement.
If you divorce, your former spouse/registered domestic partner is no longer your "surviving spouse" and may not be eligible to receive benefits upon your death.
What to Do
When a marital/partnership dissolution action has been filed, take the following steps:
- Notify SJCERA of the pending action and submit a joinder. A joinder is a legal process under the California Family Code that names SJCERA as a party to the action in the dissolution proceeding.
- If your SJCERA benefit must be divided, either by agreement of the parties or as determined by the court, select a method of dividing community property.
- Submit a draft Domestic Relations Order (DRO) to SJCERA for approval prior to signing and filing with the court.
Domestic Relations Order (DRO)
Although the retirement benefit option you chose at the time of your retirement cannot be changed, if your marriage is dissolved after you retire, your benefit may be reduced to provide retirement income to your former spouse/registered domestic partner.
A DRO is a legal document used to structure the division of community property assets, including SJCERA retirement and death benefits.
SJCERA provides a Model DRO to guide practitioners drafting orders. Other language may be used as long as it is consistent with the applicable terms of retirement law.
For more information read the Domestic Relations Order Booklet.