Posted on Wednesday, 6th July 2011 by

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Whether you are the “fed” or the “former spouse”, if you have retirement, insurance benefits or TSP benefits which were divided or assigned in the divorce decree, your work is not done when the ink dries at the courthouse.  First of all, you will need fuzzy seal “conformed” copies of your decree and any augmenting retirement or TSP orders; you get these from the courthouse where your divorce was finalized.  If any part of the TSP or the retirement was divided, you will need at least three.  Both the fed and the former spouse will need these copies.  Add one more copy if the fed was required to keep life insurance in effect by the decree.

Attorneys can send off copies of your decree/order(s) to the appropriate places or you can do it yourself.  If you are having the attorney do it, be sure they send off “conformed” copies, not just ones from the copier.  Whomever does the mailing, it should be sent by either priority mail with signature confirmation required, or certified mail.

If your decree was a long time ago and you have not sent off the decree/order to be “accepted for processing” at OPM, do not wait until retirement.  Take action now before retirement in case OPM interprets your decree differently than you intended or your decree/order is not deemed acceptable.  In a case like this, you will need to go back to court and get an amended decree/order and then send that one in to the agency which did not accept it.  Once accepted, you will receive a letter acknowledging your decree/order and explaining how it will be implemented.  Keep a copy of this letter with your copies of your decree/order(s) in a safe place.

If your decree states that a follow-on order will be written or a QDRO or a Domestic Relations/Retirement Benefits Order will be written, be sure that is done immediately by an attorney or other service familiar with the OPM or TSP acceptable wording.  Your federal benefits are NOT subject to a law called ERISA so no references to that law should be in there.  Check the contents of the order personally before it is filed with the court to see that it says what the decree says and does not award anything not specifically mentioned in the decree.  Once this order is signed and filed, any “extras” stuck in the order are likely to be paid out, even if they were not in the original decree.

The “fed” should send a conformed fuzzy seal copy of the divorce and any implementing orders involving the retirement to the OPM Court Orders Branch, PO Box 17, Washington DC, 20044.  Include a cover letter with your return address requesting that the order be declared a COAP, court order acceptable for processing.  OPM will review and send you a letter back stating the method they will use to compute the payments out of the retirement to the former spouse, address the existence of any survivor benefits for the former spouse and who will be paying for them and acknowledge any language prohibiting or sharing a refund of contributions.  In the absence of any decree/order language to the contrary, the retired fed will have the cost of any survivor benefit awarded taken out of the fed’s remaining part of the retirement.

If the “fed” is required to give survivor benefits in a court order, the retiring fed will need a fuzzy seal copy of the order(s) to send in to OPM with the retirement application.  The former spouse will need a fuzzy seal copy of the order(s) to send to OPM to apply for benefits when the “fed” retires.  Former spouses need to keep OPM advised of address changes between the date of divorce/order acceptance and the date the “fed” retires.  The former spouse will need to send a written statement to the OPM Court Orders Branch at that time with the fuzzy seal copy of the decree/order, their current address, and a statement that they are the person (DOB/SSAN) in the order and that they have not remarried before age 55.  OPM will then request the former spouse banking information to set up direct deposit.

The “fed” should change designations of beneficiary for unpaid compensation (unused leave and the last paycheck), the retirement system (CSRS or FERS contributions), and life insurance with their agency unless the decree requires that the former spouse be kept as a beneficiary.  Forms needed are:

  • SF1152, for unpaid compensation
  • SF 2823 for Life Insurance
  • SF3102 or SF2808 for Contributions to the Retirement Fund (FERS or CSRS)

These forms are available at under the forms list.

  • TSP3 for Thrift Savings Plan Account

The TSP designation of beneficiary form is  completed with witnesses’ signature on 2 pages and faxed or mailed to the address on the form.

These forms must be done in hard copy as the fed’s signature needs to be witnessed.

Former spouses who are on the federal health plan will come off 31 days after the divorce is final.  Notification can be made by the fed to the agency or the former spouse to OPM.  Even though the fed may still have family coverage to cover children, the former spouse cannot remain on the plan.  The former spouse can request Temporary Continuation of Coverage (TCC) for 3 years, paying 102% of the total premium (federal and employee shares) of a single federal health plan.  If a survivor benefit is awarded in the decree/order, the former spouse may apply for Spouse Equity Temporary Continuation of Coverage, allowing the former spouse to elect a single federal health plan and remain in the federal health plan system as long as they meet OPM requirements and pay 100% of the total premium (federal and employee share).  TCC must be requested within 60 days from the date of divorce in writing to the fed’s employing office, or to OPM if the fed is retired, by the former spouse who also sends along one of the “conformed” copies of the decree/orders.  The folks at TCC will send back election forms for the former spouse to make a choice and start paying for the health plan.  The former spouse may elect a different health plan and will pay the total premium rates for a single person for the plan s/he selects.  Former spouses need to pay attention to the deadlines in all correspondence.  These deadlines cannot be waived. For more information on divorce and its impact on federal employees benefits visit Ann’s Divorce Forum.

Learn more about your benefitsemployment, travel, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at to read all forum articles.

Request a Retirement Benefits Summary Analysis online at  A benefits specialist will prepare a personal retirement analysis detailing your total benefits and expenses verses total retirement income from all sources. A sample analysis is available for your review.

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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and financial information is subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact your benefits coordinator and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our articles are not intended nor should they be considered investment advice. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.

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