For those U.S. Federal Pensions and Military outside the U.S. click here for a similar article in Spanish, German, French, or Portugese. Suggestions with regard to translations would be appreciated as well. Voit Econometrics Group, Inc. has provided present values (pensions) for cases in other countries, as well as suggested language and court orders to divide U.S.federal and U.S. military pensions outside the U.S. Please contact our office by telephone or email for more information. CSRS & Social Security Issues in Divorce, referenced below can be found at Government Pensions & Social Security which details the inequities for CSRS plan participants and for those in related penson plans in divorce. Voit Econometrics Group, Inc. Home Page: www.vecon.com . Consider Purchasing Federal Retirement Plans in Divorce - Strategies & Issues to add to your library.

Federal Pensions in Divorce - Value for Offset or Divide?

by

Timothy C. Voit, Financial Analyst

The family law attorney confronted with a federal pension, within the context of divorce, should pay careful attention to the difference, not only between the two primary federal pensions, but to the differences between the federal pensions and traditional "non-governmental" pension plans as well. The two plans discussed here are the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Emphasis is placed on the CSRS plan, since it is often the most misunderstood Plan. It is also representative of many municipal plans, which provide retirement benefits for employees of local government institutions. The difference between FERS/CSRS and traditional non-governmental plans could mean tens of thousands of dollars, in terms of offsetting marital property values in divorce, or result in valuable benefits lost with regard to dividing these Plans pursuant to court ordered division.

In many cases, we have seen settlements between divorcing parties mishandled because it was assumed that the employee contributions into these defined benefit plans represented the lump-sum present value, or that dividing these plans pursuant to a Court Order was similar to dividing them by way of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Worse yet, we have seen cases where the parties, or their attorneys, assumed that certain municipal retirement plans, those not covered under a state retirement system, could be divided by a QDRO when, in fact, some of these municipal plans cannot be divided by any type of Court Order for purposes of property division. Needless to say, these cases had to be reopened or the Settlement Agreements amended. Unfortunately, this is not as rare as one would hope.

Although this article emphasizes issues relating to the valuing and dividing of Federal pension plans, it is worth suggesting that should a party to a divorce be a participant in a municipal plan, the attorney should then contact the plan to find out more about distribution options, especially with regard to treatment of a non-participant spouse, long before the divorce is granted. Discovery, analysis, and evaluation of benefit options should thoroughly be completed before the negotiation and/or drafting of the Court Order commences.

Because discovery into the value of plan benefits or the determination of an accrued monthly benefit is often difficult, we have provided some suggestions as to where to start obtaining information on a participant spouse with regard to FERS, CSRS, and the Thrift Savings Plan. First, if the participant spouse is not yet retired, the Office of Personnel Management will not yet have the participant's information. Therefore, one should consult the personnel department of the employing agency or agency's retirement counselor for retirement information. If the participant spouse is retired, the general telephone number for inquiries is toll-free 1-888-267-6738.

Following are brief discussions on the differences in FERS and CSRS; the approaches to valuing the FERS & CSRS plans - relative to traditional non-governmental pensions; court ordered divisions; as well as other benefit considerations, or rights, that a non-participant "Alternate Payee" spouse may have. Because of the many issues involved, and the vast differences between Federal pensions and traditional private plans, this article has been divided into two parts to aid attorneys in both the valuation issues and dividing pension benefits pursuant to a Court Order.

For starters, both the FERS and CSRS plans are administered by the same plan administrator in Washington, D.C., the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). When attempting discovery of information relating to the pension benefits of the plan participant spouse, a distinction is drawn between whether or not the party is retired. If the party is not yet retired, information regarding the participant's pension benefit, or income figures used in computing the retirement benefit, can be obtained through the participant's employer or employing entity. After retirement, the information can be obtained from the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. With regard to actual CSRS or FERS court ordered divisions, they are forwarded to the Court Order Division of the OPM, regardless of whether or not the Plan benefits are in pay status.

First and foremost, however, the unsuspecting attorney representing the non-participant spouse is all too often willing to accept the employee account balance, i.e. employee contributions, as the lump-sum value of the Plan when, in actuality, the employee contributions are unrelated to the monthly benefit the participant will receive at retirement. Therefore, the employee contributions are not indicative of the present value. These plans, FERS and CSRS, are not 401(k) savings plans. As an illustration of this point, we observed a case where an employee account balance, or contributions, totaled approximately $50,000, yet their accrued monthly benefit, accrued as of the date of separation, was roughly $2,500 per month at retirement. It doesn't take an investment analyst to see that a rather large and consistent rate of return would be required for the contributions of $50,000 to fund $2,500 per month, $30,000 per year, for the life expectancy of an individual, e.g. 20 years, not-to-mention with annual increases.

In yet another example, a FERS participant claimed that their $2,400 employee contributions was the present value of their Plan. Keeping in mind that the contributions for FERS participants are a great deal less than for CSRS participants, the fact was that the participant had accrued a monthly benefit of approximately $433, or $5,200 annually, resulting in a lump-sum present value nearly six times the value of the employee account balance, or approximately $15,000 in present value terms.

In reality, the government's portion of the contributions, including funding the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), constitutes over two-thirds of the overall value of the monthly benefit. This means that the employee contributions alone fall way short of the actual value, yet sometimes the employee account balance is the only information provided to the attorney. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the attorney, especially with municipal plans not affiliated with a state retirement system,to ask of the plan "what is the participant's accrued monthly retirement benefit as of a certain date" and when or at what age can they commence benefits. We emphasize accrued as opposed to projected benefits, which are primarily intended for retirement planning purposes.

In light of this, an award to the non-participant spouse of half of the employee contributions accrued during the marriage is not an equitable division of the benefit, especially when a refund of contributions is rare and considered a severe penalty. This, since the only way for the participant to receive their contributions is to request them in lieu of receiving a monthly benefit at retirement payable for their lifetime. Therefore, the participant would more than likely elect the monthly benefit instead of a refund of contributions. If the non-participant spouse is awarded "one-half of the employee contributions" and the participant elects to receive a monthly benefit instead of a refund of contributions, the non-participant spouse would receive nothing upon the participant's retirement, no benefit at all. However, please keep in mind that the account balances associated with the FERS and CSRS plans should not be confused with the account balance acquired under the Thrift Savings Plan, yet another Federal Plan, but one that is very similar to a 401(k) plan.

The primary difference between the FERS plan and the CSRS plan is that participants in the FERS plan also contribute to Social Security, while participants in the CSRS do not. This leads to the question of whether or not both plans should be valued in their entirety for purposes of property offset, since the Social Security benefits of the FERS participant, or other private plan participants for that matter, are not a divisible asset. The Social Security factor will be briefly discussed a little later in this article and is an issue that was addressed in some depth in other articles authored by myself or our firm for various Bar Journals across the country.

With regard to both Federal plans, it is often unclear as to the exact Plan in which the federally employed spouse is a participant, since the participant spouse may simply state that he or she is employed with the Postal Service or some other agency of the U.S. Government. Therefore, it is worth repeating that there are primarily two federal "pension" plans in which a U.S. Government employee can participate. In addition, the other most common plan, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), is similar to a savings plan or 401(k). The CSRS and FERS plans are defined benefit plans, while the TSP is a defined contribution plan, where the TSP account balance at any given time is the present value. The TSP is not emphasized here, however, some important points will be mentioned in the court-ordered section, Part II of this article. It should be noted that a federal employee will always have accruing a pension benefit, but that generally we find FERS participants also having a TSP account as well.

Another plan not emphasized, but which can be encountered from time to time, is the Foreign Service Pension System. This Plan is administered, not by the OPM, but rather by the State Department (202) 727-5280. This particular plan is very similar in structure to the FERS plan. Other smaller Federal plans exist, such as the Judicial Retirement System (JRS), which also closely resemble FERS.

As previously noted, it is often unclear as to the exact plan in which a spouse in a divorce may be a participant. For discovery purposes, keep in mind that the Federal Employees Retirement System was implemented in 1984 for those participants/employees commencing employment after December 31, 1983, while the then CSRS participants could elect to remain in their system or transfer into FERS at that time. There have also been certain windows of opportunity to transfer from CSRS to FERS subsequent to that time. Therefore, if the participant spouse began their federal employment after 1/1/84, they are undoubtedly in the FERS plan, with the possibility of also participating in the Thrift Savings Plan.

At the present time, FERS participants contribute 0.8% of their salary to the FERS plan (1.3% federal law enforcment)), regardless of what they might contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan. CSRS participants currently contribute 7.0% of their base salary to their plan (7.5% CSRS law enforcement) which the difference, coincidentally, parallels the contributions made by individuals actively contributing to Social Security (6.2%). The CSRS participants contribute more than FERS participants, since they will not receive Social Security benefits, and in return, will receive a larger than normal retirement benefit.

In the past, courts have recognized this Social Security dilemma. However, the problem, for the most part, has been with quantifying some type of discount or consideration for those participants who do not contribute to Social Security during their years of participation in the Plan. This, while their pension benefits are enhanced for lack of Social Security. The effect of the Social Security element is also quite evident in the calculation of retirement benefits under FERS and CSRS. FERS participants, who contribute substantially less to their retirement plan, receive a retirement benefit equal to 1% of the average of their highest three years of earnings, multiplied by their years of service, while CSRS participants receive 1.5% to 2% of their average annual earnings multiplied by their years of service. Given the impact of the Social Security element in marital dissolution cases, we have developed some solutions over the years which have been employed successfully in Florida cases, as well as in other parts of the country.

One method of extracting out the enhanced portion of the CSRS benefits, otherwise referred to as the Social Security element, or benefits in lieu of Social Security, is to calculate what the Social Security benefit would have been had the participant contributed to Social Security during their years of participation in the CSRS plan. This entails compiling the participant's earnings history under the Plan, information often available through the participant's employing entity, and then proceeding to enter this information into the Social Security ANY PIA program to determine a Social Security benefit. A present value is computed based on this benefit and subsequently deducted from the overall present value of the CSRS plan.

A second approach would be to assume that since the contributions made to the CSRS plan by the employee parallel what would have been contributed to Social Security on the employee's behalf, that the value of the account balance could, in effect, be deducted from the overall value of the Plan to arrive at the present value of the Plan less the Social Security element. This approach has been used when the necessary information is not readily available or in cases where the parties wanted to avoid additional costs. It has been our experience in many cases where we have performed such calculations using the first approach, that the lump-sum present value of the benefits in lieu of Social Security came very close to the value of the employee account balance, providing justification for deducting the employee account balance from the overall pension value. Again, the employee contributions, along with that portion funded by the government, are used to provide for an annuity that is enhanced for lack of Social Security, but again, the employee contributions alone are not directly related to the amount of the monthly benefit the participant will actually receive.

A third approach is to value the Social Security benefits of both parties, along with their respective pensions, and derive the net difference in the values, as suggested by one Judge in Charlotte County. This particular approach does deserve merit, however, it requires a thorough investigation into how the Social Security benefits of each party are affected by certain offsets. In this particular case, the participant spouse had accrued some Social Security benefits outside their participation in the CSRS plan, which were affected by an offset but which was not disclosed on the Social Security Administration's Statement of Benefits. The Social Security benefit given by the Social Security Administration for the participant spouse did not account for the Windfall Profit Elimination offset nor did it reflect the increase in Social Security benefits due to the application of prior military service. To complicate matters, the participant, in effect, used marital funds to purchase the equivalent military time to be applied to his CSRS benefit.

According to the Social Security Administration and the OPM, the years of military service not used for military retirement can be applied to increase either the CSRS benefit or Social Security benefits, but not both. Purchasing the additional time, or making a deposit with the OPM, means that the participant has opted to apply his/her military time to their Social Security benefits. This benefit increase is not evident on the information, or benefit calculations, provided by the Social Security Administration. If a CSRS/FERS participant has not accrued the total 20 years of military service required to receive military retirement benefits, the years of military service can be applied to the CSRS/FERS plan, year for year in computing the monthly benefit. The significance of applying military service time to a CSRS/FERS pension is that the deposit made to purchase additional time is used to: 1) increase CSRS/FERS benefits if benefits commenced before the participant's normal retirement, usually age 62, and 2) to prevent any reduction in the CSRS/FERS benefit once Social Security benefits commence, if Social Security benefits accrued outside any participation in the CSRS plan.

It should be apparent that the deduction of the Social Security element from within the CSRS pension benefit greatly depends on the circumstances of the case. Again, a classic example is when one spouse is in the CSRS plan and the other spouse is in the FERS plan, yet the Social Security benefits of the FERS spouse, or any spouse in the private sector, is not considered in the equitable division of marital assets, and rightfully so. However, nor should the entire value of the CSRS pension be considered because of this issue of the Social Security element, or enhancement. It should also be noted that another aspect of the plan federal employees may participate in, is the CSRS Offset. CSRS Offset participants do contribute to Social Security, much like FERS, however upon commencement of Social Security the CSRS benefit is reduced, or offset, by the amount of Social Security received, the opposite of what occurs when one is a full CSRS participant.

As with most pensions or retirement assets in divorce, they should first be valued to determine whether or not the participant can retain the entire pension on their side of the marital asset ledger without the need for drafting an Order to divide the benefit, with the objective being to provide for an equitable distribution of all retirement benefits. Valuing the monthly benefit, for either FERS or CSRS, is performed much the same way as any traditional defined benefit pension, however, factoring in the annual cost-of-living-adjustment should not be ignored. It should be noted that most, if not all, governmental plans do allow for annual increases in the retirement benefit, an aspect not often found in private non-governmental plans. For instance, a 2 to 3 % COLA increase can increase the lump-sum present values upwards of approximately 40%, a valuable aspect of the Plans sometimes overlooked by evaluators.

In conclusion, the primary differences are that FERS participants receive Social Security benefits while CSRS participants do not, along with the differences in the contribution rate, (0.8% for FERS as opposed to 7.0% for CSRS) and, lastly, that the employee contributions, or account balance, is not the present value of the plan benefits since it usually pales in comparison to the present value of the monthly benefit. Many municipal retirement systems will also have employee contributions or account balances. The plan administrators of these Plans may initially provide account information while failing to provide an accrued monthly benefit based on the participant spouse terminating/retiring as of a specific date, i.e. the date of separation. All of these factors are a must in the discovery process and issues that should be pursued upon the onset of a divorce. More information on dividing retirement benefits under FERS, CSRS, and TSP will follow in Part II of this article, with information related to the appropriate agencies to contact.

Tim Voit is a Financial Analyst and founder of Voit Econometrics Group, Inc. Tim Voit has been involved in researching governmental, military and traditional retirement plans for purposes of divorce while providing expert witness testimony in the valuation of pension benefits in several states, including Florida. As an analyst, and a member of several organizations relating to pension benefits, Tim Voit and his firm have aided attorneys and law firms in the drafting Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO's) and other Orders relating to private, governmental, and Military plans. Questions, or general inquiries can be made by contacting Tim Voit at (239) 596-7711.

Part II: Valuing & Dividing Federal Pensions for Divorce

Can a FERS/CSRS plan benefit be equitably divided by a Court Order? Not without some safeguards and an extremely good working knowledge of the plan. We are very persistent in telling you that discovery, analysis and evaluation of benefit options should be thoroughly completed before the negotiation and/or drafting of a Court Order commences. This cannot be overemphasized in regard to a Court Order for the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), FERS, or TSP. In fact, the attorney with the greatest knowledge of the CSRS/FERS plan will undoubtedly secure the most valuable of options and safeguards for his/her client. The attorney with the least amount of knowledge will undoubtedly relinquish valuable options and benefits for his/her client. Without the proper knowledge with regard to Plan procedures, it is even possible to draft an Order that upon application of benefits, the non-participant former spouse will receive nothing at all!

A FERS/CSRS Court Order is not consistent with traditional type non-governmental plans. Although the Final Divorce Decree could effectuate the transfer, or apportionment, of the monthly benefit, all of the pertinent issues would have to be addressed before the decree itself would be acceptable to the OPM. Most often in practice, Orders dividing retirement benefits are drafted soon after the divorce. It is in this context that we will assume that the Order addressed here is post-judgment rather than incorporated in the Final Judgment. The Order is called a "Court Order Acceptable for Processing" (COAP). The major difference between a COAP and a "qualified domestic relations order" (QDRO) is that the CSRS & FERS plans are exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (REA-84), which amended certain ERISA sections to improve delivery of retirement benefits to former spouses. CSRS and FERS are exempt from ERISA under Sections 1003(b)(1) and 1051 of Title 29, United States Code because both plans are considered a "governmental plan" as defined in Section 1001(23) of Title 29, United States Code. If you are not aware, this can present several problems in attempting an equitable division of the plan.

The most obvious problem is that the participant maintains complete control of the benefit commencement date and benefit pay-out options. Even though the non-participant spouse is awarded a share of the plan benefits, the non-participant spouse has no control over the timing of the payment of benefits or the type of benefit payment. The non-participant must wait until the participant commences benefits to begin receiving their court ordered benefits. The second most common mistake is to title the Order a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Despite the potential acceptability of the remaining content of the Order, the OPM will not accept any Order with this title. In addition, the OPM does not have a pre-approval system in place in that the OPM will not review drafts for acceptability prior to obtaining the Court's signature and stamp. When dividing the actual monthly benefit, you can do so using either a percentage, flat dollar amount, or a fraction which pro-rates the final retirement benefit at retirement using the years of marriage relative to the years of service. Lastly, with regard to awarding the spouse with a share of the participant's monthly retirement benefit, the spouse's share cannot be made payable over the lifetime of the spouse. In other words a separate, or independent interest, is not allowed.

The term "benefits" can be very ambiguous. If you divide the employee contributions, or employee account balance, and the participant chooses a monthly retirement benefit, the non participant receives nothing because the order divides the employee contributions and not the actual annuity. The Order must be specific. The participant controls the commencement of benefits, unlike a QDRO in the private sector. It is possible for the Order to prohibit the participant from choosing a refund of contributions. This is a very important negotiating point. On the other hand, language could be inserted so that the non-participant would receive his/her share in the event the participant chooses a refund of contributions. With regard to how long the benefit can be paid to the non-participant, one thing is certain, the payments cannot be based on the life of the non-participant spouse, Alternate Payee, a division approach often used in the private sector.

CSRS has many unique features not found in traditional defined benefit plans, including an annual "cost of living adjustment" (COLA). If the Order does not specifically state that the non-participant spouse shall participate in all COLA's that are applicable to the participant, he/she will not automatically receive the annual increase.

Survivor options are another confusing, but extremely important, negotiating issue. Survivor benefits differ between a plan that is in "pay-status" and a plan that is not in pay-status. Unlike a traditional defined benefit plan, a participant can change a beneficiary or survivor benefit after the commencement of benefits, provided he/she is not prohibited from doing so in a COAP. For example, a participant could change the survivor benefit payable to a former spouse and name his/her subsequent spouse as the beneficiary, or they may cancel the survivor option and change it to a single life annuity option thereby increasing his/her monthly benefit anywhere from 5.5% to possibly as much as 40%. Again, the participant's election could affect the survivor benefit unless the non-participant spouse is named as a surviving spouse to all or a portion of the survivor benefits pursuant to an acceptable Court Order dividing the retirement benefits of the participant under CSRS or FERS.

During the pre-retirement period, it becomes even more confusing. Most importantly, the COAP cannot secure a survivor benefit for the non-participant spouse without the possibility of total loss of survivor benefits if the non-participant is under age 55. The reason is that the plan terms and conditions automatically disqualify a non-participant former spouse from receiving survivor benefits if he/she remarries before age 55. In fact, if survivor benefits are in pay-status and the former spouse remarries, they will automatically cease, again, unless an acceptable Court Order is in place. The one exception to this marriage before 55 rule, is if the parties were married for more than 30 years.

On the subject of survivor benefits, if it is the desire of the parties or the Court to have the non-participant spouse named as a surviving spouse (beneficiary), language must be in the original Order (divorce decree or Settlement Agreement) for the OPM to honor survivor language in the COAP. In addition, when the Order to divide retirement benefits is submitted, a copy of the divorce decree must accompany the COAP. This is an extremely important point because we have had cases were the attorneys did NOT mention survivor benefits in the Settlement Agreement or final divorce decree, assuming that it was an issue to be addressed in the subsequent Order dividing the retirement benefit. Survivor benefits were then lost because the Settlement Agreement/Divorce Decree only stated that the spouse was entitled to 50% of the retirement benefits or that the benefits were to be divided equally. Oddly enough, in far too many divorces, more time is spent addressing the car, the boat, or the silverware in the Settlement Agreement, than typically the largest marital asset, the Pension! We often see a one-liner , "Pension is to be divided 50-50".

Although there are many other issues regarding the division of CSRS or FERS retirement benefits, too numerous to discuss here, here are some important points to consider. If you divide the monthly benefit by a percentage, and not name the spouse as a surviving spouse, i.e. no survivor benefits are awarded, and the participant then names his/her new spouse as a survivor, it's a given that the gross benefit will be reduced to fund the survivor benefit. In effect, the first spouse's benefit is going to be reduced as well, pursuant to a percentage division, to pay for the future spouse's survivor benefit because the Court awarded a percentage of the gross annuity. This can be avoided, again if the spouse is not to be deemed a survivor, and the Alternate Payee is awarded a percentage of the Gross Benefit "unreduced" for survivor benefits, or better yet, a percentage of the participant's "self only" monthly benefit. The same treatment may be applied to the fractional method of dividing the pension.

Can disability benefits be divided, while a participant under CSRS/FERS? Yes. In addition upon the participant's age 62, the disability benefit converts to a retirement benefit. Keep in mind that the actual dollar amounts received will vary. What about health insurance benefits for the non-participant spouse, specifically benefits covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)?

The non-participant spouse can be covered under the FEHB, however, the OPM will not honor a Court Order requiring it to provide coverage for a former spouse. The non-participant spouse must apply for these benefits. The COAP, or divorce decree can instruct the OPM to deduct the premiums out of one or the other spouse's payments, or even share in the cost of the health insurance benefits. However, a former spouse does not meet the definition of a family member and will not meet the requirements to obtain health insurance under the FEHB, unless the former spouse had been covered under the FEHB at least one day during the 18 months preceding the divorce, does not remarry before age 55, AND, the former spouse had been awarded a portion of the retirement benefit or survivor benefit. If the Court finds that the spouse is not entitled to a portion of the retirement benefit, because possibly the spouse received other assets in exchange for their share of the value in the pension, yet finds that they should be deemed a surviving spouse, the former spouse can apply for coverage under the FEHB. Another suggestion is to award the minimum of $1 to the spouse so that the spouse can apply for coverage. In addition, the spouse must submit a written request within 60 days of the divorce, or date of the award, to be considered for coverage according to the OPM. The spouse may be eligible to Temporary Continued Coverage (TCC) prior to being approved for the actual FEHB coverage.

Lastly, ordering the participant to name the former spouse as a beneficiary to the life insurance policies in effect under the Federal Employees' Group :Life Insurance (FEGLI), may be a good idea, however, the attorney for the Alternate Payee needs to understand that these benefits can be lost. For example, the Alternate Payee should be "assigned" all or a portion of the proceeds from a life insurance policy covered under the FEGLI as opposed to being named a beneficiary. Beneficiary designation can be changed, however, an assignment ensures that the former spouse will receive their share of the life insurance proceeds. In addition, some of these life insurance policies, e.g. Basic, Family & Dependent Coverage, Option A, B, or C, expire or decrease dramatically in value, for example upon the participant's age 65. Therefore, you may be giving up something for your client, for a benefit that will never be realized. Again, it is advisable to address the issues, both the health insurance as well as the life insurance issues, in the settlement agreement or the final judgment for divorce, if awarded to the spouse, since these document(s) must accompany the court order, or COAP, which primarily divides the CSRS/FERS retirement benefits.

Earlier, it was mentioned that the issue of dividing the Thrift Savings Plan would be addressed. As the plan is similar to a 401(k) savings plan, in that it has an account balance, the draft is similar to a defined contribution type QDRO. However, certain aspects must be addressed. First and foremost, the plan, or specifically the TSP Service Office, does not accept QDRO's. The plan is treated as a trust under Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. §401(a) with the requirements for Court Ordered divisions being detailed in 5 C.F.R. Part1653 Subpart A. Another common concern is whether an immediate lump-sum distribution can be made. A distribution can be made from the plan to the alternate payee soon after the Order is accepted and approved by the plan administrator, typically within 60 to 90 days. As with most court ordered divisions, issues relating to one party predeceasing the other should also be addressed. Court Orders for the TSP are directed to TSP Service Center in Fairfax Virginia.

Court Ordered divisions affecting the CSRS or FERS plans can be sent to the Office of Personnel Management, Court Order Division, P.O. Box 17, Washington, DC 20044. With regard to Court Ordered divisions of the CSRS retirement benefit, Section 8345(j) of title 5, United States Code, permit State courts to award retirement benefits to a former spouse while Section 8342(j)(1)(B) pertains to FERS benefits. Other sources of information describing the aspects of FERS and CSRS plans, can be found in Title 5 Part 581, Part 838, and Part 831 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Survivor benefits are addressed in 5 C.F.R. Section 8341(h) and 8339(k).

Tim Voit is the author of "Retirement Plan Benefits & QDROs in Divorce", a CCH Publication, and founder of Voit Econometrics Group, Inc., a firm specializing in forensic economics. Voit Economics Group, Inc. has pioneered many of the concepts and approaches used and recognized nationally by other firms and is internationally recognized in retirement plans and in particular federal (US) pension plans for divorces in other countries. Tim Voit has been involved in researching governmental, military and traditional retirement plans for purposes of divorce while providing expert witness testimony in the valuation of pension benefits in several states, including but not limited to Florida, Wisconsin, California, Illinois, Texas, North & South Carolina, Montana, and Iowa. As an analyst, and a member of several organizations relating to pension benefits, Tim Voit and his firm have aided attorneys and law firms in the drafting Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO's) and other Orders relating to private, governmental, and Military plans. Questions, or general inquiries can be made by contacting Tim Voit at (239) 596-7711. © Voit Econometrics Group, Inc.