About Ohio Divorce Laws & PERS Benefits

By Heather Frances J.D.

You may not consider your retirement benefits as assets, but Ohio law does. If you divorce in Ohio, the court can divide your retirement benefits, including benefits you earned under the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). The judge will award a portion of your PERS benefits to your spouse, even if you are not currently receiving benefits because you have not yet retired.

Divorce in Ohio

In Ohio, you must begin your divorce process by filing a complaint for divorce in your local court, stating the basis for your divorce and your requested terms, including child custody, property division and spousal support. You must then serve this complaint on your spouse to give him an opportunity to respond. If he fails to file an answer to your complaint, the court generally grants the requests in your petition and issues a divorce decree. If he files an answer, disputing something in your complaint, the case is placed on the court docket for a hearing in front of a judge. If you and your spouse disagree about which of you should receive certain property, such as PERS benefits, you may need to hire a lawyer to adequately defend your interests at trial. Ultimately, the judge issues a decision establishing the divorce itself and its terms.

PERS Benefits

Ohio’s PERS system offers three retirement plans to meet the investment needs of Ohio’s public employees, including a traditional pension plan, member-directed plan and a combined plan. The value of each plan varies depending on the type of plan, amount of contributions and your number of years of service. For example, your contributions are not fully vested under a member-directed plan until you have performed at least five years of service, so if you change to a private job or retire before the five-year point, your PERS account may not have a significant value. On the other hand, if you have worked in a government job for your entire career, PERS benefits can be one of the most valuable things you own.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Property Division

Ohio law requires an equitable property division in all divorces, though equitable does not necessarily mean equal. Like other retirement benefits, the court considers PERS benefits earned during marriage as marital property under Ohio law. This means your divorce judge has authority to divide the PERS contributions and credits you acquired during your marriage as part of the property division in your divorce. To determine how much your benefits are worth, the court must determine the present dollar value of the future benefit, which may require expert testimony, particularly if you only earned part of your benefits during your marriage. However, unlike private retirement plans, PERS funds do not require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, a special order from the judge allowing the plan to pay benefits to someone other than the plan’s owner. Instead, PERS benefits can be divided by a standard division of property order issued by an Ohio judge.


Ohio courts can also consider PERS benefits for spousal support, or alimony, purposes, and this could increase or decrease an alimony award depending on the circumstances. For example, if you will receive PERS benefits at retirement but your spouse has no retirement savings, a judge may consider that when deciding whether he should order you to pay spousal support to your spouse. Even if your PERS benefits did not influence the judge’s decision to award alimony, your benefits can be withheld and paid directly to your spouse as part of the judge’s alimony award. If a judge awards spousal support to your spouse and includes a withholding order requiring your employer to withhold the alimony from your paycheck, the alimony amount can be withheld from your PERS payments after you retire.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Divide Pension Income in a Divorce in Illinois


Related articles

Can an Ex-Wife Get Retirement Pay From the Husband if He Retired After the Divorce?

Courts divide marital property -- including retirement benefits -- when a couple divorces. Even if a spouse has not yet retired, the divorce court can divide both the assets in his retirement account and pension benefits he owns at the time of the divorce. However, courts do not typically reopen a divorce case once one spouse retires to give a portion of his retirement to the other spouse.

After a Divorce Ruling, What Is a QDRO?

A qualified domestic relations order, also known as a QDRO, is a legal document that allows an individual to give another person the right to receive all or part of his retirement benefits. A QDRO is typically the result of the division of marital property after a divorce, since the majority of retirement benefits may have been earned during the marital period and the court may decide that a spouse is entitled to part of those benefits.

Is New Jersey a Community Property State When it Comes to Pension & Social Security?

During your divorce proceeding, the New Jersey court has authority to divide your marital property, including real estate, personal belongings and some retirement benefits. If you don’t want the court to divide your property, you and your spouse can mutually agree on a division and distribution of marital property, and the court may adopt that division. But New Jersey courts do not have authority to divide Social Security benefits.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Divorce Retirement Questions in Michigan

If you're divorcing in Michigan, you may have questions about how your retirement plan and that of your soon to be ...

How to Split a Pension Plan in California in a Divorce

Though you may not be able to receive benefits from your pension plan until you reach retirement age, your plan ...

Federal Retirement Benefits for Divorced Spouses

Divorce can impact various types of retirement benefits, making some retirement savings accounts eligible for division ...

Divorce Laws and State Pension Plans in Oklahoma

Oklahoma state employees may qualify for state-administered retirement plans, including the Oklahoma Public Employees ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED