Your pension from the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System is generally considered a marital asset and, whether you are actively in service or receiving a retirement allowance, it is subject to valuation and division in a divorce. If your former spouse is named an “alternate payee” by the court, he or she may be entitled to receive a share of your retirement benefits at the time of your retirement pursuant to the terms of a domestic relations order (DRO).

What is a domestic relations order?

A domestic relations order—commonly known as a DRO—is a judgment, decree or order (including approval of a property settlement agreement) that sets out how a person’s retirement benefits are to be allocated between parties who are in the process of divorcing or who are already divorced.

Do I need to have a domestic relations order as part of my divorce?

If your retirement allowance (or prospective retirement allowance) is to be divided between you and your ex-spouse, you need a Domestic Relations Order. If there is no Domestic Relations Order, then at the time of your retirement we will not divide the retirement allowance.

The MTRS has developed a model domestic relations order to assist members, their spouses, former spouses and attorneys in drafting an order that meets all of the statutory requirements. To review this sample document, or obtain more information on divorce and how it could affect your MTRS benefits, please refer to our booklet, What You Should Know as a Party to a Domestic Relations Order.

What gives my ex-spouse the right to my retirement allowance? It comes from my work.

Your retirement allowance is considered a marital asset, just like your house, car, investments, or your ex-spouse’s retirement allowance can be. The divorce court can divide the retirement allowance or leave it alone, as it sees fit. Most often, the divorce court endorses a property settlement agreed to by the parties. You need to obtain legal counsel to help you reach a fair property settlement.

I’m still working. Can my ex-spouse take part of my pension now?

No, unless you leave Massachusetts public service and take a refund. The Domestic Relations Order will establish a formula for calculating how much of your future retirement allowance will be divided. Your ex-spouse can only get a share of your retirement allowance or refund when you apply for it and obtain your share.