OCERS QDROs: Orange County Employees Retirement System Benefits & Divorce
BASIC PLAN INFORMATION
Employees of Orange County earn retirement benefits under the Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS). Both employers and employees (or “members”) make contributions to OCERS. Upon retirement, OCERS provides a monthly benefit that is based on the type of plan, the employee’s age at retirement, average monthly earnings during employment, and the number of years of service. Upon divorce, parties will require a Domestic Relations Order (or “DRO”) to divide the community property interest in OCERS benefits. A DRO is a court order that provides the retirement plan with instructions about how to divide the benefits, and when to pay them, to the employee’s former spouse.
In order for OCERS to implement a Domestic Relations Order (“DRO”) the must be joined to the divorce proceeding. Joinder is a legal process that names a third-party to an existing court case. A joinder is the first step in obtaining a DRO to divide an OCERS benefit. Your family law attorney may have prepared a joinder already; however, QDRO Helper can assist you with the preparation and service of a joinder for an additional fee.
TYPICAL DIVISION OF OCERS BENEFITS: TIME RULE / BROWN / JUDD FORMULA
OCERS benefits, like many traditional pension plans, are most often divided using what is known as the
“Time Rule Formula”, “Brown Formula” or “Judd Formula”. All three terms refer to a formula which utilizes a ratio between the time of employment during marriage and the total time of employment in order to calculate a former spouse’s share of retirement benefits. Under these formulas, the community property portion of the accrued retirement benefit payable by the Plan is determined by a percentage of the benefit determined by a fraction, the numerator of which is the number of months the Member earned a benefit under the Plan during the marriage and the denominator of which is the total number of months the Member earned a benefit under the Plan through date of the Former Spouse’s benefit commencement date. The Former Spouse’s benefit is determined by multiplying the community property portion by one-half.
Other options for division can be discussed as part of the divorce settlement process; however, your judgment or marital settlement agreement should not specify a specific lump sum dollar amount payment, as that is not a payment option under OCERS and any DRO specifying a lump sum payment will be rejected by the Plan.
DEATH AND SURVIVOR BENEFITS
If the Former Spouse dies before the Member, then all payments that would have been payable to the Former Spouse will be paid instead to the Former’s Spouse’s beneficiary or estate.
If the Member dies before the Former Spouse, the Former Spouse will receive a pro-rata share of any survivor benefits available under the Plan. The pro-rata share will be determined using the same formula as was used to determine his/her community interest in the plan, such as the Judd Formula described above.
NEED HELP WITH AN OCERS DRO?
If you need help with an OCERS Domestic Relations Order, call QDRO Helper today at 619-786-7376. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request new client packet to divide an OCERS benefit. Get started on your QDRO today by downloading forms here. By utilizing technology, we are able to offer attorney-drafted QDROs to clients in Orange County, California, including Santa Ana, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Costa Mesa, and Anaheim without any in-office appointments required.
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