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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

Family Benefits

  • Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the maximum benefit payable after your death to survivors other than children is 55 percent of your annual benefit. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), the maximum is 50 percent. So, the benefit payable to your husband or wife would equal the difference between the court-ordered benefit for your ex-spouse and the maximum benefit payable. For example, if the court awarded your former spouse a benefit equal to 35 percent of your Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuity, your husband or wife could only receive a benefit equal to 20 percent.

    If your former spouse was awarded the maximum survivor benefit, you can elect a survivor benefit for your spouse on a contingency basis. In this case, your spouse would be paid the survivor benefit upon your death if your former spouse becomes ineligible for the survivor benefit.

    If you do not provide a survivor benefit for your husband or wife, he or she will not receive a monthly benefit payment after your death. Your spouse would not be able to continue coverage under the Federal Employees' Health Benefits (FEHB) program.

    If a court-ordered benefit for a former spouse will prevent a spouse from receiving a benefit that is sufficient to meet anticipated needs, you may want to provide an insurable interest benefit for your spouse.

    In order to elect the insurable interest benefit, both you and your spouse must jointly waive the benefit which could be elected as spouse. Your annuity will be reduced to provide the court-ordered benefit and the insurable interest's benefit.

    If the ex-spouse loses entitlement to the court-ordered benefit, you can request that the insurable interest benefit be changed to a fully reduced annuity to provide a benefit for the spouse within two years after the ex-spouse loses entitlement.

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  • You may make one of the following elections regarding a benefit to be paid to your spouse in the event of your death:

    • no survivor benefit;
    • partially reduced annuity; or
    • a fully reduced annuity.

    These elections may provide the following benefits:

    • no survivor benefit;
    • a full or partial annuity for a spouse;
    • a full or partial annuity for a former spouse; or
    • a combination of the two.

    Things to consider when making the election include:

    • your spouse's future retirement benefits based on his or her own employment;
    • other sources of income;
    • whether the other sources of income are protected against inflation with Cost-of-Living Adjustments; and
    • your spouse's need for continued coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.

    There is an opportunity to increase survivor benefits within 18 months after the annuity begins. However, this election may be more expensive than one made at retirement.

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  • Survivor benefit elections for current and/or former spouses can be made only at retirement, or based on a qualifying event after retirement. The applications for retirement provide detailed information and instructions about these elections. If the marriage terminates after retirement, you must contact us and tell us that they want to elect to provide a survivor benefit for a former spouse. We will send the necessary explanation and forms to elect the benefit if you are eligible to make the election.
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  • Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), your annuity is reduction by 2.5 percent of the first $3,600 of the amount you choose as a basis for the survivor annuity, plus 10 percent of any amount over $3,600.

    Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), your annuity is reduced by 10 percent for a full survivor annuity or 5 percent for a partial survivor annuity.

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  • The appropriate application for Death Benefits under the CSRS or FERS must be filed with an original signature to the Office of Personnel Management.  Your survivor should attach a certified copy of the death certificate, a copy of your marriage certificate, birth certificates of eligible children along with a certified copy of any divorce decree, and property settlement agreement that occurred on or after May 7, 1985.  Applications may be obtained online at opm.gov/retire or by contacting the Retirement Information Office at 1-888-767-6738.

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  • Yes, the provisions of the law, along with the retirement and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program regulation are in A Handbook for Attorneys on Court-Ordered Retirement, Health Benefits, and Life Insurance Under the Civil Service Retirement System, Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), RI 38-116. [446 KB]

    You can also order it from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, P.O.Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. The order processing code is 7612 and the document number is S/N 006-000-01408-9. You can order by telephone at (202) 512-1800.

    The regulations covering both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) benefits are in part 838 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations. The regulations contain extensive model language that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) encourages attorneys to use in preparing court orders.

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  • You can find this information on our Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) web pages.
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  • A court order dividing your retirement benefits can be modified by either party at any time. However, survivor annuity benefits cannot be approved based on modifications to a court order made after your retirement or death.
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  • A former spouse survivor annuity and an apportionment are two distinct benefits payable to a former spouse.  The former spouse annuity is payable after the death of an employee or retiree.  An apportionment is based on a portion of the retiree’s gross or net annuity and is generally payable during the period of retirement.  In order to qualify for one or both benefits, the court order must be specific in the type of benefit awarded.

     

    A former spouse survivor annuity terminates:

    ·         In accordance with the terms of the court order; or

    ·         Upon remarriage before age 55; or

    ·         Death of the retiree or the former spouse.

     

    A portion of a retiree’s annuity stops at the earliest of:

    ·         The date specified in a court order which requires termination;

    ·         The last day of the first month before OPM receives a court order that invalidates, vacates or sets aside the court order submitted by the former spouse.

    ·         The last day of the first month after OPM receives an amended court order

    ·         The last day of the first month before the death of the retiree

    ·         The last day of the month before the former spouse’s death, unless the order provides for continuation of the apportionment.

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  • If your marriage ends after retirement, you can elect a reduced annuity to provide a survivor benefits for your former spouse. To make an election, you must notify us in writing within two years of the date the marriage ended. You should include a court-certified copy of the decree effecting the dissolution of the marriage, and any property or marital settlement agreement. See where to send the court order.

    If you were married to the former spouse when you retired and he or she consented to an election of less than the maximum survivor benefit, you cannot provide a benefit that is larger than your original election. The calculation of the reduction in your annuity to provide the benefit for an ex-spouse is the same as the reduction for a benefit for a spouse.

    When you contact us, we will send you a statement describing the cost of the election and ask you to confirm your election.

    If you are electing to provide a survivor annuity for an ex-spouse and you remarried, your current spouse must consent to the election.

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