ICERS DROs: Dividing Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System Benefits During Divorce


ICERS DROs: Dividing Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System Benefits During Divorce

by | Oct 3, 2012 | Defined Benefit Plans, General QDRO Info, Public Employee Plans


Employees of Imperial County are members of the Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System (ICERS).  The retirement system is not a department of Imperial County government; instead it is a separate legal entity managed by the Board of Retirement which is responsible for the management of investments and benefits for ICERS members.  There are two types of ICERS membership: 1) Safety Members (employees in law enforcement, fire suppression and certain probation officers) or 2) General Members (all non-safety members).  Like other assets acquired during marriage, ICERS benefits are subject to division during divorce.  The division of these benefits is accomplished by a special court order called a Domestic Relations Order or DRO.  The law governing ICERS is Cal.Gov.Code §31450 et seq.


Joinder is a legal process that names a third-party claimant to the parties’ divorce case.  ICERS requires a joinder to be filed and served on the plan before a Domestic Relations Order can be approved and implemented.  Joinder is the first step in obtaining an Order to divide ICERS benefits.  Your family law attorney may have obtained a joinder; however, QDRO Helper also offers joinder services.


The contents of a member’s file are confidential and can only be provided to the member or the member’s authorized representative.  In order for the nonmember to receive information about the Member’s account, ICERS must be joined to the action, and either i) a subpoena duces tecum must be served or ii) the member must provide ICERS with a written authorization to release information to the nonmember or the nonmember’s attorney.  ICERS has a policy for resisting subpoenas for information, so it is often best to obtain a court order against the member requiring him/her to execute the necessary written authorization.


ICERS benefits can be divided due to dissolution or termination of a registered domestic partnership, under The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act.  However, the federal government does not currently recognize domestic partners as spouses for tax purposes, which causes unique problems for domestic partners dividing a retirement benefits.  Domestic partners should contact both a tax advisor and ICERS regarding the unique challenges in dividing these benefits due to the dissolution of a domestic partnership.


The nonmember spouse has the right to name a beneficiary, or beneficiaries, for the nonmember’s share of the ICERS benefits.  If the DRO is prepared prior to the member’s retirement, then the nonmember’s beneficiary will receive any portion of the nonmember’s ICERS interest which is payable upon the nonmember’s death.  If the DRO is prepared and implemented after the member’s retirement, then the nonmember’s beneficiary will continue to receive the nonmember’s monthly payments until the death of the member.


If a member is not retired at the time of drafting the DRO and does not have five years of accumulated service credit as of the parties’ date of separation, then the nonmember spouse will receive a refund of his/her share of the member’s accumulated retirement contributions and any interest thereon.


If you have questions about the division of ICERS benefits due to your California dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership, or if you would like to get started on your Domestic Relations Order today, please call QDRO Helper at (619) 786-QDRO / (619) 786-7376 or click here to get started.


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