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Learn more about court-ordered retirement benefits

FAQs and answers about court-ordered benefits for federal retirement.

Questions and answers

You should call us to get a case status.

If we don't have a court order/income withholding order for child support, alimony/spousal support, or bankruptcy, you should contact us when a garnishment order is received. We'll need a certified version of the court order and other supporting documents for an apportionment payment or survivor annuity benefit.

A court order related to your divorce or legal separation agreement can:

  • Divide your annuity
  • Divide a refund of your retirement contributions made when you leave federal service before retirement
  • Permit your ex-spouse to continue health insurance coverage
  • Require you to assign your life insurance
  • Garnish your annuity to pay alimony, child support, cases involving child abuse, or for Chapter 13 bankruptcy
  • Award life insurance
  • Award a survivor benefit

A court order following annulment of marriage, legal separation, or divorce can divide or apportion your annuity.

The order must expressly direct OPM to pay a portion of your monthly benefit. The spouse's share must be stated as a fixed amount, a percentage or fraction of your annuity, or by a formula with a readily apparent value. The amount cannot exceed the money payable to you after deductions for taxes and insurance.

A court order may provide for payment of all or part of a refund of your retirement contributions. It may also block the refund payment, but only if the order directs us not to pay the refund and grants a survivor annuity or a portion of your annuity to a legally separated current spouse or former spouse.

Learn more and see a detailed description on the division of benefits

A divorce, legal separation, or annulment court order may require that an employee or a retiree provide a survivor annuity for a former spouse. Based on the court order, we will pay following the death of a current federal employee or after the death of an annuitant.

If the benefit will be based on a court order, employees and retirees (or their former spouses) need to send us a court-certified copy of the court order. Send the court order to:

U. S. Office of Personnel Management Retirement Services Program Court-Order Benefits Branch Post Office Box 17 Washington, DC 20044-0017

If you're still working for the federal government, you should also provide a copy of the court order to your agency's HR office. All court orders involving garnishments or apportionment payments from OPM must be sent to the above address.

You're taxed on your gross annuity according to your most current W4-P tax marital status election on file.

You can change your election at any time by signing in to your online account or by contacting us.

Your 1099-R tax form will reflect a reduction in your gross annuity after your retirement application is finalized based on the amount of apportionment that you pay your former spouse. There will be a footnote on the 1099-R stating the amount of the apportionment paid to your former spouse for the year.

Because your annuity is subject to a court-ordered apportionment, OPM doesn't calculate the taxable portion of your annuity. The 1099-R form will show Unknown in the Taxable Amount box.

You may want to speak with a representative at the IRS or a tax advisor to help you calculate the tax-free portion of the calculation. Current tax tables for this year are available in IRS Publication 15. You can also call the IRS toll free for tax advice at: 1-800-829-1040 (agent).

Your former spouse must report the amount of apportionment he or she receives as taxable income and is required to pay taxes on these funds. Apportionment monies cannot be used as alimony deductions on a tax return.

It's your responsibility to make sure enough federal income tax is withheld from your annuity and to check the amount of tax withheld early in the year to make sure you are paying the correct amount.

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. 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.

For example, if the court awarded your former spouse a benefit equal to 35 percent of your CSRS annuity, then 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 2 years after the ex-spouse loses entitlement.

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