Divorcing Prior to Retirement

When a divorce occurs, California law recognizes the spouse or registered domestic partner to have community property (sharing of household) rights. Retirement benefits earned during your marriage or partnership are considered community property assets and must be considered in your property settlement agreement.

What to Do
When a marital/partnership dissolution action has been filed, take the following steps:

  1. Notify SJCERA of the pending action and submit a joinder. A joinder is a legal process under the California Family Code that names SJCERA as a party to the action in the dissolution proceeding. Once joined, no SJCERA benefits can be paid until the community property issue is resolved.
  2. If your SJCERA benefit must be divided, either by agreement of the parties or as determined by the court, select a method of dividing community property.
  3. Submit a draft Domestic Relations Order (DRO) to SJCERA for approval prior to signing and filing with the court.

Domestic Relations Order (DRO)
A DRO is a legal document used to structure the division of community property assets, including SJCERA retirement and death benefits.

SJCERA provides a Model DRO to guide practitioners drafting orders. Other language may be used as long as it is consistent with the applicable terms of retirement law. SJCERA requires a certified DRO prior to your retirement.

Retiring Before Your Divorce is Final
If you are in the process of a divorce but still want to retire, you may submit your Retirement Application Request at any time. The filing of or outcome of a divorce proceeding does not impact your retirement date, but it may affect the date on which SJCERA can begin payments and the amount of your benefit.

For more information read the Domestic Relations Order Booklet.