Remarriage, pension and retirement

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Q. My 93-year-old father has been retired from the federal government since he was 62. My mother passed away 22 years ago. He wants to marry a very young woman so she can get his pension. I can’t imagine the government would allow this. He is adamant that she will receive his pension if he marries her.

A. Yes, he can elect a survivor annuity for a new wife. However, he needs to keep two things in mind. First, she wouldn’t be entitled to anything unless the marriage lasted for nine months before he died.

Second, the cost of such an election might be prohibitive. To pay for it, there would be two reductions in his annuity. One would be the standard deduction to provide the survivor benefit — a 10 percent reduction if he wanted to provide a full survivor annuity. The other would be a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. The deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to him for each month since he retired, plus 6 percent interest. The reduction would be determined by the amount he owes divided by his age on the date his annuity is reduced to provide the survivor benefit. We’re talking big money here.

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About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

15 Comments

  1. I am divorced from my husband who has a civil service retirement. The spousal annunity has been included in our divorce papers to continue for my benefit. Upon his death I will receive the spousal annunity. If I remarry at any time will my annunity be affected?

    • Yes, if you remarry before age 55 or if the terms of the order stipulate that the spousal annuity will end if you remarry.

  2. I am a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. My wife died 7 years ago, and I plan to remarry soon. Will my new wife receive an ID and be entitled to Tricare for Life supplemental insurance to MEDICARE?

    • Because this is a site for federal civilian employees and retirees, we aren’t able to answer your question. You’ll have to check with your former branch of service.

  3. My boyfriend is a widower and receives his own retirement pension from the federal government (DEA agent). His late wife was a district attorney for many years, he receives her pension. He claims if he remarries, he will lose all of that benefit. Is this the case?

    • If his late wife was a federal employee and he remarries before age 55, he would no longer be entitled to a survivor annuity. If he was age 55 or older, remarrying would have no affect on his survivor annuity. We have no idea what the rules would be is his late wife wasn’t a federal employee. You’d have to check with her former employer.

  4. My husband was retired from the Forest Service 12 years ago and receives a pension. His first wife died a year after he retired and the Pension Plan was still deducting the survivorship amount from his pension. We married in 2007, and he realized that I am not eligible for the survivorship because he did not change the spouse information in the time allowed. They are going to refund the survivorship deduction over the last 11 years, but is there anything else we can do to become eligible? What if we divorce,, and then remarry?

    • He can still elect a survivor annuity for you. However, he’ll have to ask OPM to tell him how much that benefit would cost and then compare it with what he’ll be receiving in his refund. Divorcing and remarrying would make no sense. The cost of electing a survivor annuity would be the same and that remarriage wouldn’t be effective until you had been married for 9 months.

  5. Reg, he has been remarried for 10 years. That is beyond the 2 year window to change a survivor annuity to the new spouse. As far as I know, the only way to get the new spouse a survivor annuity is to divorce and remarry. As you said, they would need to be married at least 9 months.

  6. My husband and I have been together for more than 30 years but married for 12, he was married for 14 years to his ex-wife. When he retires is his ex-wife entitled to any of his pension and if so is there a way we can stop it?

    • What she is entitled to is contained in the court order ending their marriage. You’ll have to read that document to find out what – if anything – she is entitled to. If she is entitled to something, there’s nothing you can do about it. However, in either case, to protect your future interests, when he retires he should elect a survivor annuity for you.

  7. My deceased husband and I had been together for over 25 years. We were married for 13 years.
    Divorced but lived together for 9. Then remarried for additional 3 years. When he retired CSRS, he voluntarily elected survivor benefits for me as a former spouse. We didn’t remarry til I was 58.
    The election for survivor benefits states it is is for former spouse or spouse.
    Since the election was done when I was the former spouse. Am I still entitled to receive the spousal benefits?
    I can find answers concerning remarriage to the same spouse and survivor benefits.

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