The New York State Court of Appeals has determined that retirement benefits may be considered marital property and can be divided between the Participant (NYSLRS member) and their ex-spouse when the marriage ends. Retirement benefits could be affected in any of the following ways:
- An ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of the pension;
- A member may be required to name their ex-spouse as beneficiary of any pre-retirement death benefit payable;
- A member may be required to name their ex-spouse as beneficiary of any post-retirement death benefit payable;
- A member may be required to elect a pension payment option (sometimes called a retirement option) that provides a continuing benefit to their ex-spouse in the event of the member’s death;
- An ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of a retiree’s cost-of-living adjustment.
Any division of retirement benefits must be stated in the form of a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) — a legal document issued by the same court that issued the judgment of divorce. A DRO gives NYSLRS specific instructions on how benefits should be divided. It is important for members to understand the impact a DRO might have on their benefits.
The information in this presentation is not intended to be a substitute for New York law or the rules and regulations governing NYSLRS, which may change. NYSLRS staff cannot provide legal advice to any party. Members, ex-spouses and other interested parties should seek the advice of an attorney regarding matrimonial matters.