In Georgia, teachers’ retirement benefits through the TRS (Teachers Retirement System) are not divisible by law. Divorce decrees have no impact on your TRS account, and the TRS is not subject to Qualified Domestic Relation Orders, or QDROs. TRS funds are also exempt from levy, garnishment, or catchment, and a member of the TRS cannot assign his or her benefits, according to law (Georgia Law – O.C.G.A § 47-3-28).
If a member agrees to a division, it must be handled privately after payment is made to him or her by the Teachers Retirement System. In order for this division to happen, the parties involved would need to offset the funds from the TRS using other assets. This would typically involve a CDFA, CPA, or other financial professional that has knowledge of how property division works.
An example of this division can be found in the case of a husband who was set to receive a $750 monthly benefit from a private pension before he became a teacher. Once he became a teacher, he would receive an additional $250 from the TRS, totaling $1,000 in funds from two pensions. This husband would not be able to assign 50% of the $1000 but could assign the amount of the $750, because it was with a private company.
Other plans, such as a 401k, 403b, profit sharing, and money-purchased pension plans are divisible with a QDRO, as these are considered qualified plans. An IRA, though still protected, does not require a QDRO, as it is considered non-qualified plans.
If you are a teacher in the midst of a divorce in Georgia, your beneficiary information on file with the TRS may need to be updated. Please contact me today if you have any questions regarding your TRS benefits.