California is a community property state which means that retirement benefits earned during a marriage are an asset which can be divided in the event of a divorce or legal separation.
One of the two parties should file a court document called a Joinder. This document joins TCERA as a party to the divorce proceedings. Once filed and served upon the Retirement Office, the Joinder prevents TCERA from paying out any retirement funds until acceptable divorce documents are submitted to TCERA.
TCERA prefers that a Pre-Retirement Domestic Relations Order (DRO) or a Post-Retirement Domestic Relations Order (DRO) be submitted as part of the final judgment. The DRO gives specific language as to how the retirement plan assets/benefits are to be divided between the two parties.
A Domestic Relations Order (DRO) filed with the court or a copy of the final judgment as filed with the court must be submitted to TCERA. The copy must have the signature of all parties involved and include a signature or official stamp from the court. The DRO and/or the final judgment must clearly identify how TCERA retirement assets/benefits are to be split. The instructions for division of the property must be acceptable to TCERA under its policies and procedures. If it is not, the parties may be required to return to the court for an amended judgment.
Members are encouraged to notify TCERA of any divorce/legal separation proceedings as soon as possible to prevent delays and ensure the timely distribution of current or future benefits. Whenever a community property split is required, TCERA cannot distribute pension assets/benefits until an acceptable final judgment is received.
Please see the TCERA Plan Summary for additional details regarding divorce and the implications for your TCERA retirement. If you need to supply TCERA with documentation regarding a divorce or legal separation, please contact the Retirement Office to speak with a Retirement Specialist for further instructions.