Trusted Fairfax Federal Employee Divorce Attorney: Afsana Chowdhury
No matter the challenges of the work you do, when there’s a need to make a change in your personal life, be sure you’re working with a trusted, experienced professional. As a Fairfax federal employee divorce attorney, Attorney Afsana Chowdhury recognizes the unique situation you are in and the nuances to be wary of in this type of divorce.
Divorce can feel complicated or even overwhelming to some. Nevertheless, divorce can also be a new start that allows you to break free from the pain of the past. You can count on us to help you understand your rights and provide compassionate guidance throughout this legal process.
How Does a Federal Employee Divorce Differ from a Typical Divorce?
As a federal employee, you may be worried about what could happen to your benefits and earnings when filing for divorce. There are some situations in which state law seems to require your assets, such as retirement funds, to be divided in a specific way. However, federal employees fall under a different set of guidelines.
Federal employment matters all fall under what is called “spouse equity.” This is a component of federal law that is used to determine how your benefits are divided. The standard court orders typically used to make decisions about private sector pension plans do not apply in most federal employee cases.
Rather, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) laws ultimately define what occurs. In short, any court orders at the state level cannot alter the laws in place at the federal level.
One example occurs in relation to retirement benefits. Under some laws, a retirement benefit starts when the employee reaches the minimum required retirement age. That applies even when the employee may still be employed and working. This does not hold true, though, in situations where CSRS or FERS doctrine applies. In these situations, the employee cannot receive benefits until the employee is retired and then applies for them. No matter what the state court may order, this rule will not change.
Does That Mean You Cannot Get Benefits?
Federal law does require that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) comply with the court orders that relate to things like annulment and divorce for employees, retirees, and members of the CSRS or the FERS. It is often the case that divorce documentation will award some of the retirement benefits of the federal employee to the other party. In these situations, the OPM will comply with those orders.
There are several steps to expect in this process:
- The OPM will request an official court order that outlines the divorce resolution
- The OPM then determines if the order was created properly, as there are numerous language requirements that must be present
- If this is not the case, the OPM will not honor the divorce decree.
Because of the complexity of these cases, it is always beneficial to have a Fairfax federal employee divorce attorney with experience by your side. This helps ensure you know what your rights are throughout this legal process.
What Factors are Considered in Divorce Awards?
A variety of factors will play a role in determining what type of benefits are awarded to a spouse when divorcing from a federal employee. In short, the court will look at a number of factors, including:
- Amount of time the federal employee’s employment overlapped with the marriage,
- Pay grade,
- And advancement schedule.
This information is helpful in determining what each spouse is entitled to. Keep in mind that every situation is unique based on the length of the marriage and factors such as the reason for its failure. Our Fairfax federal employee divorce attorney will guide you throughout this legal process.
Federal Employee Health Benefits
Many spouses are enrolled in Self Plus One or Self and Family Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB). These spouses may maintain coverage while the couple is legally separated or processing an annulment. The spouse then loses coverage on the day the divorce is finalized. Courts cannot require ongoing coverage for the spouse.
Federal Employees Group Life Insurance
Many federal employees participate in Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI). Many employees list their spouse as the beneficiary, but this does not automatically change at the time of divorce. Once the divorce is finalized, you can and should change the beneficiary of your life insurance policy.
Courts may require that FEGLI coverage remains in place for a former spouse as well as for the children. It can also require that the former spouse remain the beneficiary.
Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employee Retirement System Benefits
The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) do not follow suit with private sector retirement pensions. To determine the marital share of at CSRS or FERS benefit plan, the following must be considered:
- The number of months the spouse was a federal employee earning toward the benefit.
- Spouses can receive half of the marital share.
- Marital share cannot be calculated at the time of divorce if the individual remains employed.
Thrift Savings Plans
Federal employees contributing to a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) during the marriage will need to follow court orders for the division of this marital asset. A transfer of the funds, dependent on the desired method, occurs at the time of the finalization of the divorce.
Hiring the Right Federal Employee Divorce Attorney Near You
Making a decision about who to represent you is critical. Our Fairfax federal employee divorce attorney will work closely with you to provide clear information and a comprehensive legal strategy to protect your rights. The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, PLC, works hard to protect your rights from the start of your divorce filing. We can be reached at 703-420-4939 or Schedule a Consultation Online.