City of Phoenix Employees Retirement System
The City of Phoenix Employees Retirement System (COPERS) is in the nature of a defined benefit plan wherein a pension benefit will be paid at the point of eligibility and application. The COPERS is not governed by the QDRO rules under the IRS Code or ERISA. The benefits under COPERS can be divided in a divorce or legal separation pursuant to the State of Arizona’s community property laws.
Unlike many other government plans, COPERS does allow for a benefit to be paid to a former spouse for the rest of the former spouse’s life regardless of the member’s death or remarriage under certain strict parameters. It is important that your pension lawyer understands these parameters as you can lose a substantial benefit if it is not dealt with appropriately in the QDRO.
The City of Phoenix employees may also participant in the Deferred Compensation Plan which is similar to a 401(K) plan and provides an account balance. The account balance under the deferred compensation plan is subject to division as community property under Arizona’s community property laws. It is important that your pension attorney fully understand the types of benefits available to City of Phoenix employees and deal effectively with the division of these retirement plans.