Benefits available to civilian federal employees are subject to rather strict rules. Federal employees are eligible for at least two retirement accounts: (1) the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), which is a pension benefit; and (2) the Thrift Savings Plan, which is similar to a 401k. Long-term federal employees also receive benefits under the older Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Other issues that must be explored when addressing the allocation of federal benefits include:
- Medical and dental insurance.
- Time limits on maintaining enrollment in the ex-spouse’s medical benefits.
- Present valuation of the FERS benefit
- Cash lump sum available for unused annual (vacation) leave
- Increased retirement benefits due to unused sick leave
- Survivor benefit for retirement
- Cost of living adjustments
- Potential for lump sum early withdrawal of retirement benefits that could defeat or limit benefits awarded to the ex-spouse
- Execution of proper forms to commence and confirm benefits
Even once all this information is known, the government requires a Court Order Acceptable for Processing to actually allocate certain benefits. This is different than a typical Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) and must contain the proper “magic words” to be accepted by the government agency. Continued post-divorce enrollment in federal health benefits (FEHB) is actually fairly generous, and simply requires that the ex-spouse be covered under policy at least one day in the 18 months prior to divorce, be eligible to share in the employee’s retirement benefits, and not be remarried. The ex-spouse must, of course, pay the policy premium, but that cost may be less than health insurance available on the open market.
We have represented many federal employees and their spouses in divorce. Our experience and knowledge of the various options and limits will ensure that you receive your fair share of benefits.