Because of the effects of
community property laws in the event of a divorce, the law
recognizes an exception to the rule that SDCERA retirement
benefits are usually payable only to members and their
survivors and beneficiaries.
When a divorce occurs, California law recognizes the
spouse or registered domestic partner to have community
property (sharing of household) rights. Retirement benefits
earned during the marriage are considered community property
assets and must be considered in your property settlement agreement.
What to do
When a marital dissolution action has been filed, the
following steps should be taken:
Notify SDCERA of the pending action and submit
joinder. Joinder is a legal process under the California
Family Code that names SDCERA as a party to the action
in the dissolution proceeding. Remember, once joined, no
SDCERA benefits can be paid until the community property
issue is resolved.
Submit a draft of a Domestic Relations Order (DRO)
to SDCERA for approval prior to signing and filing with
the court. A DRO is a legal document, signed by all
parties and a judge that stipulates how retirement
benefits should be divided. Upon your or your attorney’s
request, SDCERA provides model DRO language to guide
practitioners drafting orders. Other language may be
used as long as it is consistent with the applicable
terms of retirement law. SDCERA requires a certified DRO
prior to your retirement.
If your SDCERA benefit must be divided, either by
agreement of the parties or as determined by the court,
select a method of dividing community property.