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Surviving spouse benefits, if they are specified in the divorce judgment, are pension benefits that will be paid to a surviving former spouse ("alternate payee") upon the participant's death. This is good for the surviving former spouse, but if this election is made it reduces both parties' monthly benefits because the amount will now be calculated over two life spans, rather than just one.
Unless surviving spouse benefits are provided for in the divorce judgment, they may not be put in the QDRO with the result that pension benefits will terminate upon the employee's death. Possibly the best choice for the former spouse ("alternate payee") is to elect a single life annuity. This way, benefits continue for the rest of the alternate payee's life. This information is provided as general information, not specific advice. Be sure to consult a QDRO professional for specific information about your case.