Divorce, remarriage and survivor annuity


Q. I worked in the civil service program for 34 years and retired in 1998. I named my wife as the survivor annuitant.

In August 2005, she and I divorced. Even though the annuity was not mentioned in the divorce documents, I did not change the designation. Now I have been residing with a significant other for more than six years.

I would like to marry this woman and name her as the annuitant for my federal retirement. With no mention of the annuity in the divorce documents, can I make this change? If so, and since I have continually made the monthly adjustment to my retirement for a survivor annuitant, can this change become effective immediately, or must we conform to the nine-month waiting period?

A. Anyone electing a survivor annuity after retirement will have two deductions made in his annuity. First is the standard deduction to pay for the survivor annuity, an amount that depends on the amount of survivor annuity elected. Second is a permanent actuarial deduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. The deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the amount of annuity paid to you for each month since retirement, plus 6 percent. Only OPM can tell you how much of the total bill would be offset by the fact that you didn’t have your annuity restored after your divorce. You’ll have to start by calling OPM at 1-888-767-6738 and talking to a benefits specialist. What I can tell you is that the fact that you didn’t have your annuity restored wouldn’t alter the nine-month requirement.


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.


  1. DeAnna M Stapleton on

    My spouse divorced his military wife while he was in the proceed of retiring.Then the got divorced and his ex signed a waver to no claim towns his retirement they were married 16 years.We are married eight years and he now is divorcing me he told me this on my 50th birthday.I

    Am I entitled to 50% of his retirement since for the last eight years?

  2. My retired military ex-husband of 24 years is remarrying again. Will I lose the pension payment I am getting if her remarries?

      • My husband before retiring signed me to get his survivors benefit from the office. He retired and we divorced after 5 years. We remarried three months later. He never reported our divorce of three months. We’ve been married now for 25 years. If we now divorce will I lose my survivors benefit since he never reported our divorce of three months

        • I’m not qualified to answer your question. You’ll have to consult an attorney who is familiar with federal benefits.

    • Margie McBain on

      My husband is retired from the US Treasury. His wife passed away a few years after he retired and we got married. We filled out the form to change the beneficiaries and have copies, but OPM continues to say that that they have not received anything. We have been married 13 years now, and I am not sure where I stand if something should happen to him. We sent the forms certified and have a copy of that as well, and have letters that my husband has sent to OPM. What should we do.

  3. Robert caddell on

    I retired in 1995 and included a small survivor benefit for my spouse. In 2014, we divorced and I have since remarried. I would like to leave a survivor benefit for my new wife. Does OPM permit me to provide survivor benefit to my second wife? If yes, what is the correct way to proceed?

    Thank you

    • Yes, you can provide a survivor benefit for your new wife; however, the maximum amount of that benefit would be the difference between what you have already provided to your former spouse and the full amount. Just be aware that there would be two reductions in your won annuity. First would be the standard reduction to provide a survivor benefit. Second would be an actuarial reduction in your annuity to pay the survivor benefit deposit. That deposit would equal the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to you each month since you retired, plus 6 percent interest.

      To find out more about the process and what it would cost you, write OPM’s Retirement Operations Center at P.O. Box 45, Boyers, PA 16012-0045. Include your full name, CSA number, and a copy of your marriage certificate.

  4. Confused wife on

    My Husband is a retired civil service employee. His first wife died before he retired. he then married me after 8 years of being a widow. Am I entitle for a survivor benefits when ,( God forbids,) he die first. He said I am only entitled to whatever left from the money he had contributed while working as federal employee, and he said I will not receive any money from his retirement pension. In order for me to receive his retirement Pension, he have to pay the government $750 dollars a month How is this so? Please enlighten me.

    • If your husband didn’t elect a survivor annuity for you within two years of your marriage, you wouldn’t be entitled to a survivor annuity. The longer an employee is retired before electing a survivor annuity, the higher the cost will be. He may have been right when he told you that his own annuity would have had to be reduced by $750 a month to pay for it. Unfortunately, if he dies before you, there won’t be any of the money left that he contributed while working. Since annuity payments are first made using the employee’s contributions,those contributions would have been returned to him within the first two years of his retirement

  5. my sister in law was a retired civil service employee. She left her husband a survivor benefits. He is now planning to marry again. Will he lose the benefits, he is 72 years old.

  6. My ex-husband is getting ready to retire from civil service. In our divorce decree it states he will pay me part of his retirement when he retires. What do I have to do and will I lose this because I have remarried?

    • You would only lose your entitlement to a part of his retirement if you remarried before age 55. If you didn’t, you’ll need to file a copy of your divorce settlement with the Office of Personnel Management’s Court Ordered Benefits Branch, P.O. Box 17, Washington, DC 20044-0017. Give them a call first at 1-888-767-6738 to be sure that what you have is what they’ll need.

  7. I choose an insurable interest annuity when I retired in 1998. I have since separated (never married this individual) and I just found out they have married. How can I stop this insurable interest annuity and will I be able to stop my deductions from my monthly retirement check.
    I was a DOD CRCS employee.

  8. Wow! This is good to know. There is another out, besides death of the designated Insurable Interest beneficiary. According to what I read in Section 52A3.1-3, if the retiree marries someone OTHER than the Insurable Interest beneficiary and then elects to provide the new spouse a Survivor Annuity, they can then request termination of the Insurable Interest Annuity. There are definitely tight restrictions on termination of survivor annuities.

  9. My husband is in the Border Patrol and was married to his ex-wife for 14 years. In their divorce paperwork she negotiated maximum FERS survivor benefits. We’ve been married now for 4.5 years and he’s retiring this year. We are filling out the paperwork and are very confused. If he passes before both of us, do we split the survivor benefit? No one at OPM can answer the question so far and most attorneys are completely confused. Basically if the ex has max survivor benefits will the current wife also receive benefits if the husband dies? Is there something we need to add or file to ensure the benefits are for existing spouse? Help much needed and appreciated.,

    • If the court order ending their marriage explicitly states that the former spouse is entitled to the maximum survivor benefit and that order was properly filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then she is entitled to that benefit in the event of his death. As a result, the current wife wouldn’t be entitled to any survivor benefit.

  10. I married a woman after my CSRS retirement and after a period of time elected a survivor benefit for her with a reduction in my pension. I am divorcing her now and there will be no provision in the decree for her to get an annuity. I am losing $620 monthly now to pay for her survivor annuity.
    Upon entry of he final divorce decree will my $620 reduction cease?


    • Only in part. When you made that election there were two reductions in your annuity. The first was to provide the survivor benefit. That reduction will end when your marriage ends. The other was a one-time actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. That deposit equaled the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to you for each month since you retired, plus 6 percent interest. That reduction was permanent and will not end.

        • The actuarial reduction is permanent. All I can tell you is that the longer the time between when you retired and when you married, the greater that amount would be.

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