Divorce, federal style

Thursday - 4/5/2012, 2:00am EDT

Some people keep working because they love their jobs, enjoy their coworkers and feel they are serving their country. Some keep working because their spouses don't want them around the house all day. Nor do they feel they need even more time with their constant companion of 50 years. Being permanently 24/7 could try both parties' patience. And there are others reasons to work till you drop ...

There are also people who keep working because they will lose money, in some cases a lot, by retiring because they are divorced. When they retire, their ex-spouse will get a chunk of that monthly pension payment, for life. Case in point, a still-working-fed who's ex is praying for her retirement. Here's her situation:

"I'm trying to find an answer about Voluntary Contribution annuities. I am a longtime fed, divorced long ago, and my ex will eventually receive a pro-rata share of my CSRS annuity based on half of the length of our marriage — about 25 percent of the overall annuity when I eventually retire.

"The divorce whacked my retirement plans hard, but the longer I continue to work, the larger my share of the pension grows. I'm considering starting voluntary contributions now to purchase an additional increment of annuity when I retire, to beef up MY share of my CSRS annuity. Is this possible, to designate the voluntary contributions to just one side of the split? I wouldn't want to have the voluntary annuity added to the TOTAL unreduced annuity prior to dividing it, or the ex would receive 25 percent of my voluntary contributions I made after our divorce ... not a good financial plan for me!" J.A.

We put the question to David Snell. He's the director of retirement services for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees. He pointed out that he's not a lawyer, and that court orders differ. But in general, he said "working longevity is the best revenge when it comes to court ordered benefits. However, once the employee retires, the wording of the divorce decree/property settlement will determine how the retiree's annuity is to be divided and paid. I'm not a paralegal however, Voluntary Contributions that the employee uses to purchase additional annuity at retirement is a separate benefit from the regular retirement annuity and is treated differently for federal income tax purposes and is not subject to Cost of Living Adjustments. So my hunch is unless the court order specifically mentions the former spouse will get a portion of the benefit derived from the voluntary contributions, the annuity purchased by them will not be subject to the court order."


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Forget GPS or Google Maps. Today, April 5, is "National Read a Road Map" day. Enjoy folding that map!


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