• CALPERS Pension Retirement Division

CALPERS Pension Retirement Division in Divorce

The California Public Employees Retirement System (CALPERS) provides lifetime monetary benefits to employees and their spouses. If you have filed for divorce, you may be wondering how you or your spouse’s CALPERS pension may be affected. Depending on your marital settlement agreement, you may receive up to half of your spouse’s CALPERS retirement. Below is an overview of the CALPERS pension retirement division process in divorce. Read on to learn more.

Overview of CALPERS Pension Retirement Division

CALPERS is a defined benefit plan. It is codified by the California Public Employees Retirement Law. During a divorce, defined benefit plans are divided between spouses. This is in accordance with California’s community property laws. Unless the parties agree otherwise, California laws require a 50/50 division of community property marital assets. CALPERS pension plan is considered an asset. 

In order to begin a CALPERS pension retirement division, the spouse seeking to enforce the judgment must join the Plan in the divorce proceedings and file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) with the court. Ideally, the QDRO should be drafted shortly after the judgment is entered. In order to properly complete a CALPERS pension retirement division, the judgment must contain specific instructions to CALPERS on how the retirement plan is to be divided. 

CALPERS Requires Joinder in Divorce

It is important to formally join CALPERS in the divorce as an interested, third-party claimant. In fact, CALPERS requires the retirement plan be formally “joined” as a party claimant in all California divorce cases. This requires the preparation and filing of Joinder documentation with the court in the family law case.  The filing of the Joinder will make sure that a hold is placed on the retirement account until the issue is resolved with the court. CALPERS must be served and provided with legal notice of joining the CALPERS retirement plan.  CALPERS has 30 days to respond. The filing and serving of the Joinder alerts CALPERS that the spouse of the Participant has a community property interest in the retirement account. It also alerts CALPERS that a claim is being made against that account. This must be done before filing the QDRO. After the QDRO is drafted, it is recommended to send it to CALPERS for preapproval. Once CALPERS approves the drafted QDRO, it can be filed and sent to the judge for signature. The filed QDRO is then sent to CALPERS for final administration.

Ways to Divide a CALPERS Pension Retirement

CALPERS will process the division of benefits once it receives a certified copy of the filed QDRO. A CALPERS pension can be divided in one of the following two ways:

  • Account Rollover

The non-member spouse can ask for the retirement account to be separated prior to the member spouse’s retirement. The balance of the account will be half of the sum grossed during the marriage to the date of separation. The non-member spouse can request to roll over the funds into their own account.

  • Monthly Benefit

Non-retired members can ask for the community property interest in the pension to be separated into 2 accounts: one in the name of the member and non-member spouse. The non-member spouse will receive a lifetime benefit equivalent to his/her community property interest. The non-member spouse will receive a monthly allowance upon reaching the designated age for retirement.

A non-member spouse is not entitled to health benefits. Health benefits cannot extend beyond the last day of the month in which the marriage terminated. Such health benefits are not subject to a QDRO.  

If you are dividing a CALPERS retirement plan in a California divorce, A People’s Choice can help you prepare the Joinder documents in addition to the QDRO. If you need help with your CALPERS pension retirement division, contact A People’s Choice by calling 1-800-747-2780 to speak with one of our experienced staff.

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By |2018-01-18T15:46:53-07:00May 27th, 2016|Family Law|11 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.


  1. Anna L Heredia February 13, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    My ex husband did not ask for any of my retirement during our our divorce over 10 years ago, can he come back to ask for it when I retire, I will be retiring in 5 years.

    • Sandy McCarthy February 14, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      It would depend upon what your judgment says.

  2. Rebecca January 22, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    When the QDRO is written, does it have to state that the person who retired wants to be paid back to the date that they retired? I retired in Sept but didn’t have a QDRO done until after I retired. It was filed with the Judge and signed in January. It’s now in CalPERS hands. I was told by CalPERS when I completed my paperwork to retire that I would get paid retro to the date that I retired.. My ex is telling me that I don’t get paid back to September because it wasn’t stated in the QDRO. Is this true? Thank you

    • Sandy McCarthy January 23, 2019 at 8:48 am

      We would not be able to comment because it wouuld be based on how the QDRO was written and what your Judgment says.

  3. susan October 31, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    a member of Calpers, my x-spouse were awarded 1/2 of my pension. Married in 9/1996 and separated in 12/2010. The divorced finalized in 8/2017 with entry judgement date of 7/2016. is it beneficial for me to wait until I am closer to retirement to have the Qdro prepared or do it as soon as possible?

    • Sandy McCarthy November 2, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      You should prepare the QDRO asap. CslPers will also require a Joinder. Contact us for help with the paperwork.

  4. Sandy McCarthy October 13, 2018 at 7:13 am

    Probably not. Your divorce decree should address these issues. Property acquired after a divorce is final would be considered separate property since the parties are not married.

  5. Peter G October 5, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Is separating a Calpers retirement account better than using time rule formula for a divorce finalized 10 years ago? Who benefits more in each case, the Member Spouse or Non-Member Spouse? My ex wife wants to change our establish QRDO, which is already time ruled, and change it to the separation of accounts. She retired 2018 amd I still have 2-5 more years to work and contribute to Calpers. If it is more beneficial to me, the Member Sporuse, I would do it. Wouldn’t the Non-member spouse be losing money since our date of separation was over 10 years ago. Also, how does Calpers know the balance of my retirement account from over 10 years ago?

    • Sandy McCarthy October 7, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Peter. It sounds like you have questions that require legal advice. I would contact an attorney to get answers to your questions. Our role in CalPERS QDROs is limited to preparing the documents. If you need to amend a previously filed QDRO, let us know. We could probably help you with that once you have your questions answered.

  6. Cynthia Eden July 26, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    My husband and I agree to grant each other 100% of our own pensions. His is with CalSTRS and mine with CalPERS. Is a joinder necessary? What paperwork is necessary and to whom is it filed?

    • Sandy McCarthy July 26, 2018 at 8:37 pm

      You did not indicate where you are in the divorce process which is an important factual piece of information. Perhaps you might call us to discuss 800-747-2780.

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