Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) is a governmental plan. Benefits payable by PERA include pension benefits and disability benefits. Under the 1984 Retirement Equity Act, PERA is exempt from the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) law. In 1987, Minnesota passed a law permitting the division of public pension plans in a divorce proceeding. Prior to this law, PERA could only make payments to the PERA member. Now PERA can pay pension benefits directly to a former spouse.

When a PERA pension is divided in a divorce, the former spouse does not get his or her portion placed into a separate account. Rather, the PERA pension remains in the PERA member’s account until the member retires or quits.

When the member ends his or her service, PERA will pay the former spouse according to the way that the PERA member is paid out by the pension plan. For example, if the member is receiving monthly payments from PERA, then the former spouse will receive his or her share through monthly payments. In the same way, if the member receives a lump sum from the PERA pension, then that former spouse will receive his or her share in the form of a lump sum.

Once a benefit option is granted, it cannot be revoked or changed. If a PERA member named his or her former spouse as his or her survivor, then that former spouse (if living) will receive the member’s PERA payments following death. However, the survivor option that the member chose at the time of retirement may be revoked by a court order in the event of a divorce.