Ask The Lawyer

By Debra Roth

Q & A Session: Divorce Clause to Thrift Savings Plan

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Q:

My wife has a clause in her divorce that says when her ex-husband retires from the government, she gets half of what he had in his Thrift Savings Plan account at the time of their divorce. How long can he go before she can receive that money? He turns 60 in November, and she really needs the money for home repairs and bills.

A:

While some government jobs face mandatory retirement ages, most government employees do not. If the court order will not go into effect until he retires, it is very difficult to predict when that will be. While most government employees do eventually retire, many work long past retirement eligibility.

In order to protect the retirement benefits federal employees are entitled to, federal laws and regulations impose very precise procedures and limits when it comes to state courts taking a benefit away from a federal retiree and awarding it to another person. In the case of a Thrift Savings Plan (“TSP”), you should know that the court order must meet the requirements found in 5 uSC § 8435(c), 5 USC § 8467, and 5 CFR § 1653, subpart A–those requirements are too lengthy to list here, but you should be able to review them on your own or with an attorney.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the independent agency which manages the Thrift Savings Plan, publishes helpful guidance on their website regarding court orders and TSP. Click here to review. Also, if your wife was awarded any other benefits, such as a survivor’s annuity upon her ex-husband’s death, those may be subject to additional rules, regulations, and requirements.

This response is written by Michael S. Causey, associate attorney of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.

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