New York State, Major City & Public School Retirement Systems

The New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) is a defined benefit plan. The pension will be based on factors such as the participant’s tier, retirement plan, service credit, final average salary (FAS) and age at retirement. Under New York law, pensions earned during the marriage are marital property.

Members are categorized into different groups or tiers based on their date of membership in the Retirement System. There are five tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) based on when a participant began membership. They are Tier 1 (Before July 1, 1973); Tier 2 (July 1, 1973 through July 26, 1976); Tier 3 (July 27, 1976 through August 31, 1983); Tier 4 (September 1, 1983 through December 31, 2009); Tier 5 (January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012); and Tier 6 (April 1, 2012 or after).

Tier status determines the following, but is not limited to: contributions; benefit eligibility; service crediting; loan provisions; death benefit coverage; and the formula used to calculate the pension benefit.

The New York State Court of Appeals determined that Retirement System benefits constitute marital property and are subject to the equitable distribution provisions of the Domestic Relations Law (Majauskas v. Majauskas, 61 NY2d 481, 474 NYS2d 699). Therefore, NYSLRS honors a properly drawn Domestic Relations Order (DRO) issued by a New York State court.

The rights of membership in the retirement system belong only to the participant. The spouse has no statutory rights or protections. As a governmental plan, NYSLRS is exempt from the provisions of the Employees’ Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) that provide for Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) (see ERISA Section 4 (b) and IRC Section 414 (P) (9)). The spousal notification, spousal consent and surviving spouse protections of ERISA do not apply in the case of a state governmental plan. All rights given to an ex-spouse must be set forth explicitly in the DRO or they will not exist for him or her. Learn more by reading our FAQs below.


QDRO New York State & Local Employees Retirement System
(New York Domestic Relations Order)
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QDRO New York State & Local Police & Fire Retirement System
(New York Domestic Relations Order)
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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Can a participant and his or her spouse agree on a division of the participant’s benefit entitlements without being divorced?
A. No. Current law provides for a division of a Participant’s benefit only when a marriage has been terminated and the Retirement System has received a signed DRO, directing the Retirement System to pay a share of the Participant’s benefits to his or her ex-spouse. In addition, the Participant must provide the Retirement System with a certified copy of the judgment of divorce.
Q. Does NYSLRS require a waiver if former spouses decide not to divide their pension benefits as part of our divorce?
A. No. NYSLRS does not require a waiver or copies of divorce papers when the pension is not divided.
Q. Does NYSLRS accept out-of-state divorce decrees?
A. Yes. NYSLRS accepts an out-of-state order if a notarized Consent to New York Jurisdiction and Release is executed by the participant consenting to the laws of New York State. The Consent form authorizes NYSLRS to deduct payments from the participant’s retirement benefit according to the provisions of the out-of-state DRO and release NYSLRS from any liability whatsoever as a consequence of any payments based upon that DRO. If consent to New York jurisdiction cannot be obtained, an out of state DRO must be registered in a New York Court with jurisdiction over the Retirement System.
Q. Do automatic orders prohibit the participant from changing beneficiaries or applying for retirement place any restrictions on NYSLRS?
A. Automatic Orders place no restrictions or limitations on NYSLRS and cannot be used to restrain NYSLRS and its personnel from the performance of any statutory duties. If NYSLRS is served with a restraining order to prevent the processing of any application(s) filed by the participant during the pendency of this action, the restraining order must be directed to NYSLRS and specifically set forth any action(s) NYSLRS is prohibited from taking.
Q. Can an ex-spouse of a participant who is entitled to a share of the pension receive a cash payout of his or her interest in the pension?
A. No, the alternate payee cannot obtain a cash payout of his or her interest in the participant’s pension benefits.
Q. Can an ex-spouse leave his or her share to someone else when he/she dies?
A. No, an ex-spouse cannot designate a beneficiary to receive his or her share of the pension when he/she dies.
Q. Can an ex-spouse obtain benefits as soon as the participant is eligible to retire?
A. No, an ex-spouse cannot obtain any benefits until the Participant actually retires and his or her pension payments have begun.
Q. Can a former spouse collect delinquent child support as part of the division of a NYSLRS pension?
A. Yes, but the former spouse must have an income execution for support to obtain child support or alimony payments. For assistance in obtaining an income execution, contact your county office for child support services. You can also collect child support by using a Domestic Relations Order. NYSLRS cannot make payments to the former spouse until the participant actually retires and his or her pension payments have begun.
Q. Does a divorce, annulment or judicial separation affect that designation of a spouse as a beneficiary of the death benefit?
A. Effective July 7, 2008, the designation of the spouse as beneficiary of certain benefits is revoked in a divorce, annulment or judicial separation and they receive written notice, unless the participant has a DRO on file that specifies otherwise. The designation is revoked regardless of when the final decree of divorce, annulment or judicial separation is entered. 

Q. What must a participant do if he or she wishes to keep the ex-spouse as a beneficiary?
A. If he or she wishes to keep the ex-spouse as beneficiary, the participant must re-designate him or her after the date of the divorce, annulment, or judicial separation.
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