We get a lot of questions from members or spouses of members going through a divorce wondering if LAGERS benefits are a marital asset and how, if at all, a benefit will be impacted. This can be a really tricky subject for members and their attorneys to sort through because unlike other retirement assets, your LAGERS benefit has no account balance or value while you are still working. Instead, throughout your career, you are accumulating credited service that will someday be converted into a monthly benefit. Because there is no account value assignable to an active member benefit, it can make it difficult to know where to begin when dealing with a LAGERS benefit in a divorce proceeding. Here are my top three divorce FAQs to help point you in the right direction.
Is my LAGERS benefit considered a divisible marital asset?
There is no cookie cutter answer when it comes to whether or not your LAGERS benefit is a marital asset because there are no state statutes specifically addressing this. Whether your LAGERS benefit will or will not be a divisible asset is determined by the family court in each particular case.
A portion of my benefit, for the time I was covered in LAGERS and was married, has been ordered to be divided. Can LAGERS determine this amount for me?
We get inquiries from members or spouses from time to time requesting information to help determine who gets what in a divorce. Firstly, LAGERS will never release information regarding a member’s benefit to anyone except the member (or as required by law). A spouse, ex-spouse, or attorney for either party will not be able to request any personal information regarding the member’s benefit directly from LAGERS unless through an appropriate court order or a properly executed release of information form from the member.
Often, when members do inquire about their benefit during a divorce proceeding, they are looking for a present or ‘lump sum’ value of their benefit. Remember that because benefits accrue through credited service, and not by account balance, LAGERS does not provide present value calculations for members. There are, however, two documents that members can request to assist with the court’s determination. Members receive an annual benefit statement each year from their employer which will tell a member if they stopped working as of Dec 31, what their monthly benefit would be at retirement age. Members can access their statements from their myLAGERS account, or request a copy from the LAGERS office. LAGERS can also, at the member’s request, provide a benefit estimate which will show the member’s future monthly benefit for accrued service to date. If a member was married for only a portion of their LAGERS service, an estimate can be generated for that specific period, if desired.
When I retire, how will my ex-spouse receive their court-ordered payments?
Under current Missouri statutes, your LAGERS benefit is not subject to execution, garnishment, attachment, bankruptcy, or any other process of law (with the exception of court ordered child support deductions). What this means is that when a member begins drawing their monthly benefit in retirement, it is solely the member’s responsibility to forward appropriate payment to the ex-spouse.
LAGERS has a more complete divorce FAQ section as well as general information about how LAGERS benefits are calculated on our website, but of course, these resources, as well as this blog, should not be interpreted or used as legal advice. Members with specific questions about their case should speak with their personal legal counsel.