Federal Employee Divorces — Top 10 Mistakes

Things have been a little busy the past week and inputs here haven’t been what they should be. Here’s a good “starter” for the week to get things going again. I titled this the Top 10 mistakes.

Big Finish!
Creative Commons License photo credit: massless

I have no statistics to prove these are anyone else’s “Top 10”, I just know they are common, and I know that there are a lot of otherwise highly qualified attorneys out there who are a bit at sea on some of these issues. Over the next 10 or so days we’ll cover each one in a little detail. I’m also very open to comments and suggestions on issues to add to this list.

  1. Proper valuation of pension plans
  2. Valuation and control of sick leave
  3. Valuation of annual leave
  4. Valuation and distribution of TSP assets
  5. Consideration of FEGLI
  6. Valuation/continuation of FEHB
  7. Considerations for combining military time
  8. Evaluating the Catch 62 rule
  9. Neglecting VA disability issues
  10. Sending a QDRO to do a COAP’s job


  1. Randy Peterson says:

    I am a Federal employee who is eligible to retire in 2.25 years. I was recently divorced and have been ordered to have a COAP done. I wanted to know who you would recommend that I have do the COAP???

    Thank you,

    Randy Peterson

    • Randy Peterson » Hi Randy, thanks for writing in. Sorry to hear about your need. I can not, though, recommend any attorneys here … legal complications, you see. sorry. Have you tried you local or state bar association, or Google directly? Many online legal directories don’t seem to know what a COAP is, but my opinion is, if you type COAP into Google and thus find lawyers who talk about COAP’s, and know the difference between Federal CPA’s and garden-variety QDRO’s, you’ll probably find someone worth while. God speed.

  2. David Millhoan says:

    I have been divorced since March 2003 and employed by the Federal Govt since 1986 I will retire in December 2013. The COAP says that my former spouse receives 50 percent of the retirement benefit from May 1986 to March 2003. how in the world do I figure out how much of the annuity that she gets? I know how to figure my benefit but how do i calculate the years for the 50 percent benefit? Thanks

    • David Millhoan » Hi David. Welcome to the “Time Rule” club. I’m a member myself. The calculations for your ex-wife’s share should work out like this.

      Your retirement annuity is, of course, based on all your service from May 1986 until December 2013. The court has ordered that she receive a 50% share of the time you were married and a Federal employee.

      here’s the language that typically describes how OPM handles this:

      Half of the fraction whose numerator is the number of months of Federal
      creditable civilian and military service that the employee performed during the marriage
      and whose denominator is the total number of months of Federal civilian and military
      service performed by the employee

      So your ex is owed 50% x Months married/Months employed. We already know that the court has ordered she share in the months from May 1986 to March 2003. That’s roughly 202 months. You were employed from may 1986 until (projected) December 2013 0r roughly 331 months. This gives us 50% (0.5) times 202/331 which equals 30.51% as her share. OPM will then order DFAS (or whichever other agency actually pays you) to pay her 30.51% of your monthly annuity and send you the remaining 69.49% to you. Hope this helps.

  3. Is a COAP a separate document or just part of the divorce decree? Is there a standard form for the COAP? Any way to see a copy of a generic COAP or one sterilized for privacy? Thanks for any guidance.


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