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How Divorce Can Affect Your WRS Account

If a marriage is legally terminated, the court can award up to 50% of a participant's WRS account to an "alternate payee" (the former spouse). The court order that awards a portion of the account to the alternate payee is called a "Qualified Domestic Relations Order" (QDRO). A WRS annuity or account can be divided if the marriage legally terminated after January 1, 1982.

A QDRO must award a percentage of a participant's annuity or account to the alternate payee; it cannot award a specific dollar amount. The percentage applies to all parts of the participant's annuity or account, including employee and employer contributions, additional contributions, and creditable service (including military service). Once the annuity or account is divided the participant has no further rights to the portion awarded to the alternate payee, and the participant's future benefits are reduced by the value of the annuity or account awarded to the alternate payee.

If the participant is already receiving an annuity when the marriage is terminated the annuity is divided, and a separate annuity is then paid to the alternate payee. If the participant is not an annuitant the account is divided and a separate account is created for the alternate payee, who can then apply for a benefit at any time. However, until the participant reaches minimum retirement age and/or is vested, the alternate payee is only eligible for a separation benefit. Once the participant reaches minimum retirement age and is vested, the alternate payee is eligible to apply for a retirement benefit based on both employee and employer contributions.

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