Divorce & Community Property


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 identifies your VCERA benefits and how they will be divided among the parties. If a division is required by the court, VCERA requires a court-filed Domestic Relations Order (DRO) to divide and pay benefits.* Without a valid DRO on file, VCERA cannot process your retirement or refund application.

Likewise, a joinder pleading or other notice of adverse interest served on VCERA is, by itself, insufficient to cause VCERA to withhold retirement benefits or begin payment of benefits to a former spouse.**

VCERA’s procedure for resolving community property claims will depend on whether the DRO orders a member and former spouse to share a benefit or whether the member’s account will be split into two separate accounts, subject to the provisions of Article 8.4 of the County Employees’ Retirement Law of 1937 and VCERA’s Community Property Division Policy.

To ensure your court order contains the required information, VCERA’s General Counsel 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 and accumulated contributions you earned during the community property period. This information 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.

For more information on the process of dividing community property, please review the Divorce & Your VCERA Benefits booklet and contact VCERA.

* Divorce may affect how some disability retirement benefits are calculated for a former spouse. Please contact VCERA for more information.
** If VCERA receives a joinder pleading or other notice of adverse interest from a former spouse claiming a community property interest in the monthly benefit of a retired member, VCERA will continue paying an undivided benefit to the retiree until a valid court order or stipulation from the parties is received.