Q. Can a spouse receive the survivor benefit if they divorce?
A. Yes, bit only if it’s explicitly included in the divorce decree and that decree is filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Court Ordered Benefits Branch, P.O. Box 17, Washington, DC 20044-0017.
There are 2 publications on OPM’s site that you should download and read. One is RI84-1, “Court Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses, “https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/pamphlets/ri84-1.pdf.” The other is RI38-116, “A Handbook for Attorneys on Court Ordered Retirement, Health Benefits, and Life Insurance,” https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/pamphlets/ri38-116.pdf.
The court order granting you Survivor Benefits (and Health Benefits, etc.) needs to be prepared in accordance with OPM’s requirements. A typical Divorce Decree or QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) usually doesn’t meet these. OPM refers to a “Court Order Acceptable for Processing,” COAP, to award you benefits as a former spouse. Please take the time and get these Handbooks and read them. Your future can depend on it.