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Dividing Federal Civil Service and FERS in a Divorce


Summary:  Federal civil service and federal employee retirement plans can divided in a Colorado divorce just like many other pension plans. However, the division cannot be done by the Separate Share method.


Dividing Civil Service and Federal Employee Retirement Plans (FERS)

The federal employee retirement plans cannot be divided by the use of a QDRO. Instead, the plan must be divided by a COAP (Court Order Acceptable for Processing). Although a COAP is similar to a QDRO, it is much more complicated.

Civil service plans are similar to the newer FERS. The major difference is that the federal employees which are covered under the FERS plans also participate in the social security system.

In contrast, civil service participants do not contribute to social security. Their "social security portion" is built into the civil service plan.

There are 3 separate parts to a COAP:

1. The division of the annuity (self annuity, gross annuity, or net annuity);

2. The determination of whether a former spouse survivor's annuity will be provided; and

3. Whether any restriction will be placed on the plan participant's ability to withdraw contributions.

Because a federal plan COAP can be complicated, the divorce separation agreement, mediated agreement, or permanent orders hearing final court order should be sufficiently detailed so that the drafter of the COAP is properly guided by the divorce court orders.

The federal COAP differs from a QDRO, in that under the federal COAP, plan payments may not begin until after the federal employee retires. Also former spouse survivor annuities will be lost if the former spouse remarries before reaching age 55. And, under the federal plans, there is no such thing as a joint and survivor annuity.

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