Federal pensions soon may be considered part of financial property settlements in divorce actions under a bill approved yesterday by the House Post Office-Civil Service Committee.
Currently the wages of active-duty federal workers and military personnel and annuities for both groups are subject to garnishment for court-ordered alimony or child support. Hundreds of federal workers, military personnel and retirees now have their pay or pension checks reduced - before they get them - to satisfy alimony and or child-support orders.
But the government has always considered annuities of retired civil servants outside the preview of property settlements and has refused to touch those pensions of workers even under court order, unless the decree was specifically for alimony or child support.
The bill, by Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) would change the existing regulations and force the government (which is willing to be forced) to honor court orders to split a pension between a former wife and her federal retiree husband (or the other way around if the wife was the government retiree because that annuity is part of a properly settlement.
The legislation does not have any specific formula, or maximum or minimum amounts dealing with garnishment of annuities. What it would do is leave it up to the court to determine how much of the annuity is due the former spouse as part of a property settlement. It would require the government to deduct that money from the annuity and give it, on a regular monthly basis, to the spouse named in the property settlement. It could be in addition to deductions already being made for alimony or child support, depending on the court ruling.
If Conngress approves the Spellman bill, it would mean that any of the 80,000 federal retirees involved in divorces could find their annuities subject to deductions for property settlements. The bill does not include military pensions or the annuities of Federal Sercvice retirees, but they could easily be added.