If one spouse is a federal employee, how is their pension divided on divorce?

By Carolyn Grimes
November 21, 2016


Typically, federal pensions are divided by what they call the marital share fraction. The way the system works is that the private employer pensions are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The federal, state, railroad, and church pensions are all not covered by ERISA. They have their own particular statutes for the state. Federal pensions are divided, and there's a huge section of law on that. But, typically, what happens in a divorce is that pensions, which are a retirement amount that's paid per month when the employee actually retires, are divided by a fraction that gives the former spouse a share of the pension awarded during the marriage.

The numerator, the top part of the fraction, is the amount of time the employee was in service during the marriage. In Virginia, it's up to the date of separation, but that may vary based on your state law. The bottom part of the fraction is the total time and service. That's the marital share that's typically multiplied by 50%, because typically spouses receive 50% of marital assets here in Virginia. That's not an absolute. That at least yields a percentage that's then applied to the actual retirement upon the employee's retirement – the actual pension that's paid. If you are married to someone for 10 years of their 20 year federal career, that's half of their career times 50%. You end up with 25% of the pension that's paid upon actual retirement.

Carolyn Grimes is a family lawyer at the law firm of Wade Grimes Friedman Sutter & Leischner PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia. To learn more about Grimes and her firm, visit www.oldtownlawyers.com.

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November 21, 2016
Categories:  FAQs

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