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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of February 13, 2020

Title 5Chapter ISubchapter BPart 838Subpart I → Appendix


Title 5: Administrative Personnel
PART 838—COURT ORDERS AFFECTING RETIREMENT BENEFITS
Subpart I—Terminology Used in Court Orders Awarding Former Spouse Survivor Annuities


Appendix A to Subpart I of Part 838—Recommended Language for Court Orders Awarding Former Spouse Survivor Annuities

This appendix provides recommended language for use in court orders awarding former spouse survivor annuities. A former spouse survivor annuity is not a continuation of a former spouse's share of an employee annuity after the death of the employee. A former spouse's entitlement to a portion of an employee annuity cannot continue after the death of the employee. A court order that attempts to extend the former spouse's entitlement to a portion of an employee annuity past the death of the employee is not effective. The model language in this appendix does not award benefits payable to the former spouse during the lifetime of the employee. A separate, distinct award of a portion of the employee annuity is necessary to award a former spouse a benefit during the lifetime of the employee. Appendix A to subpart F of this part contains model language for a portion of an employee annuity.

Attorneys should exercise great care in preparing provisions concerning former spouse survivor annuities because sections 8341(h)(4) and 8445(d) of title 5, United States Code, prohibit OPM from accepting modifications after the retirement or death of the employee. (See §838.806 concerning unacceptable modifications.) A court order awarding a former spouse survivor annuity should include four elements:

  Identification of the retirement system;

  Explicit award of the former spouse survivor annuity.

  Method for computing the amount of the former spouse's benefit; and

  Instructions on what OPM should do if the employee leaves Federal service before retirement and applies for a refund of employee contributions.

By using the model language, courts will know that the court order will have the effect described in this appendix.

The model language uses the terms “[former spouse]” to identify the spouse who is receiving a former spouse survivor annuity and “[employee]” to identify the Federal employee whose employment was covered by the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System. Obviously, in drafting an actual court order the appropriate terms, such as “Petitioner” and “Respondent,” or the names of the parties should replace “[former spouse]” and “[employee].”

Similarly, except when the provision applies only to the basic employee death benefit (defined in §843.103 of this chapter) that is available only under the Federal Employees Retirement System, the models are drafted for employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (5 U.S.C. 8331 et seq.). The name of the retirement system should be changed for employees covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (5 U.S.C. chapter 84.).

Statutory references used in the models are to CSRS provisions (such as section 8341(h) of title 5, United States Code). When appropriate, the corresponding FERS provision (such as section 8445 of title 5, United States Code) should be used.

Table of Contents

700 Series—Computing the amount of the former spouse's benefit.

¶701   Award of the maximum survivor annuity.

¶702   Award that continues the pre-divorce survivor annuity benefits.

¶703   Award of a prorata share.

¶704   Award of a fixed monthly amount.

¶705-710 [Reserved]

¶711   Award of a percentage or fraction of the employee annuity.

¶712   Award based on a stated formula as a share of employee annuity.

¶713-720 [Reserved]

¶721   Award of a percentage or fraction of the maximum survivor annuity.

¶722   Award based on a stated formula as a share of maximum survivor annuity.

¶723-750 [Reserved]

¶751   Changing amount of former spouse survivor annuity based on remarriage before retirement.

¶752   Changing amount of former spouse survivor annuity based on remarriage after retirement.

800 Series—Paying the cost of a former spouse survivor annuity.

¶801   Costs to be paid from the employee annuity.

¶802   Costs to be paid from former spouse's share of the employee annuity.

900 Series—Refunds of employee contributions.

¶901   Barring payment of a refund of employee contributions.

¶902   Dividing a refund of employee contributions.

700 Series—Computing the amount of the former spouse's benefit.

Paragraphs 701 through 704 contain model language for awards of former spouse survivor annuities in amounts that do not require specification of the base on which the former spouse's share will be computed. Situations in which the computational base need not be specified include amounts defined by law or regulation. For example, the maximum former spouse survivor annuity is fixed by statute generally at 55 percent of the employee annuity under CSRS and 50 percent of the employee annuity under FERS.

Paragraphs 711 and 712 contain model language for awards of former spouse survivor annuities that use the employee annuity as the base on which the portion awarded will be computed (that is, on which percentage, fraction or formula will be applied). Paragraphs 721 and 722 contain model language for awards of former spouse survivor annuities that use the maximum possible survivor annuity as the base on which the portion awarded will be computed (that is, on which percentage, fraction or formula will be applied). Using the maximum possible survivor annuity as the base will generally award 55 percent under CSRS and 50 percent under FERS of the amount that using the employee annuity as the base would produce.

Paragraphs 750 and higher contain model language to implement the most common other types of awards.

Each model paragraph includes a reference to the statutory provision under CSRS that authorizes OPM to honor court orders awarding former spouse survivor annuities. The FERS statutory provision that corresponds to section 8341(h) (mentioned in the first sentence of each example) is section 8445.

¶701   Award of the maximum survivor annuity.

Using the following paragraph will award the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity. Under CSRS, the maximum possible survivor annuity is 55 percent of the employee annuity unless the surviving spouse or former spouse was married to the retiree at retirement and agreed to a lesser amount at that time. Under FERS, the maximum possible survivor annuity is 50 percent of the employee annuity unless the surviving spouse or former spouse was married to the retiree at retirement and agreed to a lesser amount at that time.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System.”

¶702   Award that continues the pre-divorce survivor annuity benefits.

Using the following paragraph will award a former spouse survivor annuity equal to the amount that the former spouse would have received if the marriage were never terminated by divorce.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System in the same amount to which [former spouse] would have been entitled if the divorce had not occurred.”

¶703   Award of a prorata share.

Using the following paragraph will award the former spouse a prorata share of the maximum possible survivor annuity. Prorata share is defined in §838.922. To award a prorata share the court order must state the date of the marriage. Unless the court order specifies a different ending date, the marriage ends for computation purposes on the date that the court order is filed with the court clerk.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be equal to a prorate share. The marriage began on [insert date].”

¶704   Award of a fixed monthly amount.

Using the following paragraph will award a former spouse survivor annuity that will start at the amount stated in the order when the employee or retiree dies, unless the stated amount exceeds the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity. If the amount stated in the order exceeds the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity, the court order will be treated as awarding the maximum. After payment of the former spouse survivor annuity has began, COLA's will be applied in accordance with §838.735. If the final sentence of this model paragraph is omitted, OPM will add COLA's occurring after the date of the employee's retirement or the date of issuance of the court order, whichever is later.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be equal to $[insert a number] per month. The Office of Personnel Management is ordered not to increase this amount by COLA's occurring before death of [employee or retiree].”

¶705-710 [Reserved]

¶711   Award of a percentage or fraction of the employee annuity.

Using the following paragraph will award a former spouse survivor annuity equal to the stated percentage or fraction of the employee annuity. The stated percentage or fraction may not exceed 55 percent under CSRS or 50 percent under FERS.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be equal to [insert a percentage or fraction] percent of the [employee]'s employee annuity.”

¶712   Award based on a stated formula as a share of employee annuity.

Using the following paragraphs will award a former spouse survivor annuity in an amount to be determined by applying a stated formula to employee annuity. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity may not exceed 55 percent of the employee annuity under CSRS or 50 percent under FERS. The formula must be stated in the court order (including a court-approved property settlement agreement). The formula may not be incorporated by reference to a statutory provision or a court decision in another case. If the court order uses a formula, the court order must include any data that is necessary for OPM to evaluate the formula unless the necessary data is contained in normal OPM files.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be the portion of the [employee]'s employee annuity computed as follows:

“[Insert formula.]”

¶713-720 [Reserved]

¶721   Award of a percentage or fraction of the maximum survivor annuity.

Using the following paragraph will award a former spouse survivor annuity equal to the stated percentage or fraction of the maximum possible survivor annuity. The stated percentage or fraction may not exceed 100 percent.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be equal to [insert a percentage or fraction] of the maximum possible survivor annuity.

¶722   Award based on a stated formula as a share of maximum survivor annuity.

Using the following paragraphs will award a former spouse survivor annuity based on a stated formula to be applied to the maximum possible survivor annuity. The formula must be stated in the court order (including a court-approved property settlement agreement). The formula may not be incorporated by reference to a statutory provision or a court decision in another case. If the court order uses a formula, the court order must include any data that is necessary for OPM to evaluate the formula unless the necessary data is contained in normal OPM files.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be the portion of the maximum possible survivor annuity computed as follows:

“[Insert formula.]”

¶723-750 [Reserved]

¶751   Changing amount of former spouse survivor annuity based on remarriage before retirement.

Using the following paragraph will award the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity unless the employee remarries before retirement. Upon the employee's remarriage before retirement the amount of the former spouse survivor annuity changes to a prorata share. The maximum possible and prorata share are used as examples only; other amounts may be substituted. Similar language is not acceptable for remarriages after retirement.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System unless [employee] remarries before retirement. If [employee] remarries before retirement, under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be equal to a prorata share. The marriage to [former spouse] began on [insert data].”

¶752   Changing amount of former spouse survivor annuity based on remarriage after retirement.

Using the following paragraph will award the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity unless the employee remarries after retirement and elects to provide a survivor annuity for the spouse acquired after retirement. Upon the employee's remarriage after retirement and election to provide a survivor annuity for the spouse acquired after retirement, the amount of the former spouse survivor annuity changes to a prorata share. The maximum possible and prorata share are used as examples only; other amounts maybe substituted. The change in the amount of the former spouse survivor annuity must be triggered by the election, which is a part of normal OPM files, rather than the remarriage, which is not documented in normal OPM files.

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded the maximum possible former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System unless [employee] elects to provide a survivor annuity for a new spouse acquired after retirement. If [employee] elects to provide a survivor annuity to a new spouse acquired after retirement, under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be equal to a prorata share. The marriage to [former spouse] began on [insert data].”

800 Series—Paying the cost of a former spouse survivor annuity.

A court order awarding a former spouse survivor annuity requires that the employee annuity be reduced. The reduction lowers the gross employee annuity. The costs associated with providing the former spouse survivor annuity must be paid by annuity reduction. Under §838.807, if the former spouse is awarded a portion of the employee annuity sufficient to pay the cost associated with providing the survivor annuity, the former spouse's share maybe reduced to pay the cost.

¶801   Costs to be paid from the employee annuity.

No special provision on payment of the costs associated with providing the former spouse survivor annuity is necessary if the court intends the cost to be taken from the employee annuity.

¶802   Costs to be paid from former spouse's share of the employee annuity.

Using the following paragraph will award the former spouse a prorata share of the employee annuity and a prorata share of the maximum possible survivor annuity and provide that the cost associated with the survivor annuity be deducted from the former spouse's share of the employee annuity. Prorata share and self-only annuity are used as examples only; another amount or type of annuity may be substituted.

“[Employee] is (or will be) eligible for retirement benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System based on employment with the United States Government. [Former spouse] is entitled to a prorata share of [employee]'s self-only monthly annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. [Former spouse]'s share of [employee]'s employee annuity will be reduced by the amount of the costs associated with providing the former spouse survivor annuity awarded in the next paragraph. The marriage began on [insert date]. The United States Office of Personnel Management is directed to pay [former spouse]'s share directly to [former spouse].”

“Under section 8341(h)(1) of title 5, United States Code, [former spouse] is awarded a former spouse survivor annuity under the Civil Service Retirement System. The amount of the former spouse survivor annuity will be equal to a prorata share.

900 Series—Refunds of employee contributions.

Court orders that award a former spouse survivor annuity based on the service of an employee who is not then eligible to retire should include an additional paragraph containing instructions that tell OPM what to do if the employee requests a refund of employee contributions before becoming eligible to retire. The court order may award the former spouse a portion of the refund of employee contributions or bar payment of the refund of employee contributions.

¶901   Barring payment of a refund of employee contributions.

Using the following paragraph will bar payment of the refund of employee contributions if payment of the refund of employee contributions would extinguish the former spouse's entitlement to a former spouse survivor annuity. “The United States Office of Personnel Management is directed not to pay [employee] a refund of employee contributions.”

¶902   Dividing a refund of employee contributions.

Using the following paragraph will allow the refund of employee contributions to be paid but will award a prorata share of the refund of employee contributions to the former spouse. The award of a prorata share is used only an example; the court order could provide another fraction, percentage, or formula, or a fixed amount. A refund of employee contributions voids the employee's rights to an employee annuity unless the employee is reemployed under the retirement system. Payment of the refund of employee contributions will also extinguish the former spouse's right to a court-ordered portion of an employee annuity or a former spouse survivor annuity unless the employee is reemployed and reestablishes title to annuity benefits.

“If [employee] becomes eligible and applies for a refund of employee contributions, [former spouse] is entitled to a prorata share of the refund of employee contributions. The marriage began on [insert date]. The United States Office of Personnel Management is directed to pay [former spouse]'s share directly to [former spouse.]”

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