California is a community property state, which means that your former spouse or registered domestic partner may have a “community property interest” in the VCERA benefits you earned during marriage. A family law court will usually provide direction on how these retirement benefits shall be divided. It is critical that your court-filed judgment of dissolution or legal separation clearly identify your VCERA benefits and how they will be divided among the parties. A Domestic Relations Order (“DRO”) issued by the court is required to enable VCERA to divide benefits.* Without a valid DRO on file, VCERA cannot process your retirement or refund application.
VCERA’s procedure for resolving community property claims will depend on whether the DRO orders a division of the member’s benefits or division of the member’s account into two separate accounts, which is subject to the provisions of Article 8.4 of the County Employees’ Retirement Law of 1937 as well as VCERA’s Community Property Division Policy.
To ensure your court order contains the required information, VCERA’s legal office can review your draft language before it is finalized. However, this review is no substitute for professional legal counsel. In addition, VCERA can supply documentation about the service credit, contributions and interest you earned during the community property period. This can be particularly helpful during the early phase of the dissolution proceedings. Lastly, VCERA staff can provide DRO templates to assist in your court filing.
* Divorce may affect how some disability retirement benefits are calculated for a former spouse. Please contact VCERA for more information.