Idaho State, Major City, & Public School Retirement Systems

Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) provides retirement, disability, survivor, and other benefits to more than 125,000 members. The membership includes retirees, beneficiaries, and active public employees of more than 750 employers in Idaho.

Most PERSI members have both the traditional defined benefit plan known as the Base Plan (pension), and the supplemental defined contribution plan known as the Choice 401(k) Plan. The Base Plan and the Choice 401(k) Plan are separate and distinct plans, and require separate orders if the accounts are to be divided upon divorce. The requirements for dividing a Base Plan account are different from the requirements for dividing a Choice 401(k) Plan account.

A memberís retirement benefit does not depend on account accumulations because the benefits are derived from formulas based on the memberís credited service (which may be reduced because of a divorce), highest average salary over a particular period, and a multiplying factor, less any applicable early retirement penalties. These formulas, which are established by statute, differ for the various funds (PERSI, Firefighters and Police). Account accumulations are only relevant to the Base Plan account withdrawals upon separation or death. Learn more by reading below.

QDRO Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI)
(Idaho Domestic Relations Order)
Consists of Three Retirement Plans:
  • PERSI Base Plan (BASE)
  • PERSI Choice 401k Plan (CHOICE)
  • Firefighters Retirement Fund (FRF)
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Prior to July 1, 1998, dividing PERSI benefits upon divorce was complicated and difficult for all parties because the law prohibited payment of any benefits until the member retired, separated from employment, or died. Since July 1, 1998, the division of benefits is made with an Approved Domestic Retirement Order (ADRO), which expedites an immediate division of benefits and eliminates continued court involvement.

An ADRO divides the benefit at the time of the divorce rather than waiting for some other distributable event. For nonretired members, the division happens by creating a segregated (separate) account for the ex-spouse. He or she may take an immediate lump sum payment of the amount in the segregated account, or roll over the distribution to an eligible retirement plan. If the member was vested at the time of divorce, he or she may leave the money in the PERSI account and remain eligible for a lifetime annuity upon reaching retirement age.

An account is segregated only if the member has not yet retired. If the member is retired, a segregated account is not established; instead, the ex-spouse will be paid a portion of the memberís monthly benefit. That portion is either a set dollar amount or a percentage of the monthly benefit.

A memberís death does not affect the ex-spouseís segregated account since two separate and distinct accounts exist. The memberís account passes to his/her named beneficiary for a death benefit, if any, or to a contingent annuitant (CA), who is a person chosen by the member to receive a monthly lifetime benefit after the memberís death. Likewise, when the ex-spouse dies, his/her account passes to his/her named beneficiary for a death benefit, if any, or to a CA.

When the retired member dies, depending on the retirement option selected, benefit payments may cease. If the ex-spouse is the CA, 100 percent of the benefit is paid to him/ her for the remainder of his/her life. If the ex-spouse predeceases the member, the payment reverts to the member.

An alternate payeeís benefit never survives the alternate payeeís death. If the former spouse was also the CA, the death of the CA may result in an increased monthly payment to the member.

An ex-spouse is generally not entitled to any PERSI assets the member acquires after the divorce and account segregation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Must a participant share his or her PERSI benefits in a divorce?
A. Idaho is a community property state, which means property acquired during a marriage belongs to the ďcommunityĒ of the marriage rather than to one individual as separate property. Under Idaho community property law, PERSI benefits accumulated by a member during marriage are assets of the marriage community. In many cases, the retirement benefits are the most valuable asset of the marriage. Some or all of a memberís PERSI accounts and/or benefits may be a community property asset. If the member was married the entire time he/she was a member, all accounts and/or benefits are normally community property. If the member was married part of the time, generally only the account contributions and interest and/or benefits accumulated during the marriage are community property. The accounts and/or benefits accumulated during a period when a member was not married are the memberís separate property.
Q. What happens when PERSI receives a divorce decree?
A. The receipt of divorce decree triggers special handling. When PERSI receives a divorce decree relating to a pending divorce, the memberís account is flagged to indicate a divorce is in progress. Any benefits requested after the decree has been received are not acted upon until the divorce matter is settled. PERSI will act on benefit requests if a divorce decree has not been received.
Q. What account and benefit information will PERSI provide?
A. PERSI provides account information to a spouse at any time for any reason (ß59-1316 (4), Idaho Code). A former spouse may receive limited account information when the court has ordered a division of benefits. Upon request, PERSI prepares a worksheet on the memberís account and benefit entitlement accrued during the marriage. The worksheet typically shows:

> if the member is vested;
> account accumulations attributable to the marriage;
> amount of credited service attributable to the marriage;
> the retirement benefit formula; and
> estimated monthly retirement benefit attributable to the period of the marriage projected to age 65/60 and 55/50.

Parties identified on the written release (spouse, attorneys, the court) receive the information on a finalized worksheet, along with other requested or explanatory information.

Q. How does PERSI divide benefits?
A. The division of PERSI benefits is made with an Approved Domestic Retirement Order (ADRO, which is a Domestic Retirement Order (DRO) that has been submitted to PERSI and complies with legal requirements. The DRO is a court order dividing PERSI benefits on or after July 1, 1998. Approved by PERSI, the DRO becomes an ADRO and PERSI divides the memberís account or benefit payments.
Q. What can the parties do if PERSI does not approve the DRO?
A. PERSI examines the DRO and notifies the parties within 90 days if it has been approved or rejected. If PERSI does not approve the DRO, the parties are notified so they can amend the DRO to comply with statutory requirements.
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