In re Marriage of Mack.
2022 CO 17. No. 21SC62. Public Employment Retirement Benefits—Dissolution of Marriage—Equitable Division of Assets.
April 11, 2022
Members of Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) are allowed three option choices for distribution of their retirement benefits. Option 1 allows for monthly payments to the retiree, and when the retiree dies, the payments cease. Options 2 and 3 similarly allow for monthly payments to the retiree. Under options 2 and 3, however, the retiree names a co-beneficiary, and when the retiree dies, the named co-beneficiary continues to receive monthly benefit payments for life. Option choices are generally final, but CRS § 24-51-802(3.8) provides that if the retiree chose either option 2 or 3 and the retiree’s spouse was named co-beneficiary at retirement, the court presiding over the retiree’s dissolution of marriage action “shall have the jurisdiction to order or allow” the retiree to remove the spouse as named co-beneficiary and prompt a conversion to option 1 benefits.
In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether CRS § 24-51-802(3.8) empowers the divorcing retiree to unilaterally remove the former spouse as named co-beneficiary and convert to option 1, or whether that power lies with the trial court. The Court concluded that CRS § 24-51-802(3.8) vests the trial court, not the retiree, with the authority to remove the former spouse as co-beneficiary and facilitate a conversion to option 1. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment, albeit on different grounds.