Will a standard divorce order suffice to cover issues involving my federal retirement benefits?
It might not. Federal retirement programs are exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which generally governs marriage-related court orders affecting private-sector workers. Thus, court orders that are commonly used to divide private-sector benefits, called “Qualified Domestic Relations Orders” (QDROs), might not be valid in proceedings involving federal or postal employees or retirees. If a court issues its order in the form of QDRO, the order may be acceptable for Office of Personnel Management processing if the court specifically states that it has considered the terminology and requirements of the federal employee benefit laws and regulations and that the terms and provisions of the order “are governed by the standard conventions” of those federal employment laws and rules.

Similarly, the Thrift Savings Plan has special rules for distributions from TSP accounts under which standard court orders might not achieve the desired effect. There are also differences in policies regarding the designation of beneficiaries in defined contribution retirement savings plans such as the TSP and 401(k)s.

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