5 CFR § 1653.3 - Processing retirement benefits court orders.

§ 1653.3 Processing retirement benefits court orders.

(a) The payment of a retirement benefits court order from the TSP is governed solely by FERSA and by the terms of this subpart. The TSP will honor retirement benefits court orders properly issued by a court (as defined in § 1653.1). However, those courts have no jurisdiction over the TSP and the TSP cannot be made a party to the underlying domestic relations proceedings.

(b) The TSP will review a retirement benefits court order to determine whether it is enforceable against the TSP only after the TSP has received a complete copy of the document. Receipt by an employing agency or any other agency of the Government does not constitute receipt by the TSP. Retirement benefits court orders should be submitted to the TSP record keeper at the current address as provided at http://www.tsp.gov. Receipt by the TSP record keeper is considered receipt by the TSP. To be complete, a court order must be written in English or be accompanied by a certified English translation and contain all pages and attachments; it must also provide (or be accompanied by a document that provides):

(1) The participant's account number or Social Security number (SSN);

(2) The name and last known mailing address of each payee covered by the order; and

(3) The payee's SSN and state of legal residence if he or she is the current or former spouse of the participant.

(c) As soon as practicable after the TSP receives a document that purports to be a qualifying retirement benefits court order, whether or not complete, the participant's account will be frozen. After the account is frozen, no withdrawal or loan disbursements (other than a required minimum distribution pursuant to section 401(a)(9) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(9)) will be allowed until the account is unfrozen. All other account activity will be permitted.

(d) The following documents do not purport to be qualifying retirement benefits court orders, and accounts of participants to whom such orders relate will not be frozen:

(1) A document that does not indicate on its face (or is not accompanied by a document that establishes) that it has been issued or approved by a court;

(2) A court order relating to a TSP account that has been closed;

(3) A court order dated before June 6, 1986;

(4) A court order that does not award all or any part of the TSP account to someone other than the participant; and

(5) A court order that does not mention retirement benefits.

(e) After the participant's account is frozen, the TSP will review the document further to determine if it is complete; if the document is not complete, the TSP will request a complete document. If a complete copy is not received within 30 days of that request, the account will be unfrozen and no further action will be taken with respect to the document.

(f) The TSP will review a complete copy of an order to determine whether it is a qualifying retirement benefits court order as described in § 1653.2. The TSP will mail a decision letter to all parties containing the following information:

(1) A determination regarding whether the court order is qualifying;

(2) A statement of the applicable statutes and regulations;

(3) An explanation of the effect the court order has on the participant's TSP account; and

(4) If the qualifying order requires payment, the letter will provide:

(i) An explanation of how the payment will be calculated and an estimated amount of payment;

(ii) The anticipated date of payment;

(iii) Tax information and income tax withholding forms to the person responsible for paying Federal income tax on the payment;

(iv) Information and the form needed to transfer the payment to an eligible employer plan, traditional IRA, or Roth IRA (if the payee is the current or former spouse of the participant); and

(v) Information and the form needed to receive the payment through an electronic funds transfer (EFT).

(g) The TSP decision letter is a final determination of the parties' rights in the account. There is no administrative appeal from the TSP decision.

(h) An account frozen under this section will be unfrozen as follows:

(1) If the account was frozen upon receipt of an incomplete order, the account will be unfrozen if a complete order is not received within 30 days of the date of the request described in paragraph (e) of this section;

(2) If the account was frozen in response to an order issued to preserve the status quo pending final resolution of the parties' rights to the participant's TSP account, the account will be unfrozen if the TSP receives a court order that vacates or supersedes the previous order (unless the order vacating or superseding the order itself qualifies to place a freeze on the account). A court order that purports to require a payment from the TSP supersedes an order issued to preserve the status quo, even if it does not qualify to require a payment from the TSP;

(3) If the account was frozen in response to an order purporting to require a payment from the TSP, the freeze will be lifted:

(i) Once payment is made, if the court order is qualifying; or

(ii) Forty-five (45) days after the date of the TSP decision letter if the court order is not qualifying. The 45-day period will be terminated, and the account will be unfrozen, if both parties submit to the TSP a written request for such a termination.

(i) The TSP will hold in abeyance the processing of a court-ordered payment if the TSP is notified in writing that the underlying court order has been appealed, and that the effect of the filing of the appeal is to stay the enforceability of the order.

(1) In the notification, the TSP must be provided with proper documentation of the appeal and citations to legal authority, which address the effect of the appeal on the enforceability of the underlying court order.

(i) If the TSP receives proper documentation and citations to legal authority which demonstrate that the underlying court order is not enforceable, the TSP will inform the parties that the payment will not occur until resolution of the appeal, and the account will remain frozen for loans and withdrawals.

(ii) In the absence of proper documentation and citations to legal authority, the TSP will presume that the provisions relating to the TSP in the court order remain valid and will proceed with the payment process.

(2) The TSP must be notified in writing of the disposition of the appeal before the freeze will be removed from the participant's account or a payment will be made. The notification must include a complete copy of an order from the appellate court explaining the effect of the appeal on the participant's account.

(j) Multiple qualifying court orders relating to the same TSP account and received by the TSP will be processed as follows:

(1) If the orders make awards to the same payee or payees and do not indicate that the awards are cumulative, the TSP will only honor the order bearing the latest effective date.

(2) If the orders relate to different former spouses of the participant and award survivor annuities, the TSP will honor them in the order of their effective dates.

(3) If the orders relate to different payees and award fixed dollar amounts, percentages or fractions of an account, or portions of an account calculated by the application of formulae, the orders will be honored:

(i) In the order of their receipt by the TSP, if received by the TSP on different days; or

(ii) In the order of their effective dates, if received by the TSP on the same day.

(4) In all other cases, the TSP will honor multiple qualifying court orders relating to the same TSP account in the order of their receipt by the TSP.

[68 FR 35510, June 13, 2003, as amended at 69 FR 29851, May 26, 2004; 71 FR 50320, Aug. 25, 2006; 72 FR 51354, Sept. 7, 2007; 77 FR 26428, May 4, 2012]

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