An ex-wife’s failure to obtain a Domestic Relations Order during her ex-husband’s lifetime did not bar relief after his death. The divorce settlement agreement provision that granted her the right to receive the ex-husband’s retirement plan death benefits could be enforced after his death more than seven years after the divorce judgment was entered.

Suchwas the holding of New York County Supreme Court Justice Debra A. James, in the August, 2013 decision in Paschall v. New York City Employees Retirement System.

After 20 years of marriage, Diana and Randy Paschall were divorced. Their 2004 divorce judgment incorporated the terms of their surviving 2003 Settlement Agreement.

By the time of his death in 2011, Mr. Paschall  had married again to Jewel Paschall. Jewel was issued letters of administration for Randy’s estate. She also exercised her personal right of election to take her elective share of her late husband’s estate pursuant to New York Estates, Powers & Trust Law 5-1.1-A.

During his  marriage to Diana, Mr. Paschall accrued benefits under the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS). Diana and Randy’s divorce Settlement Agreement provided that in the event of Randy’s death before Diana, Diana would be entitled to Randy’s survivor annuity. The Agreement required Randy to designate Diana as his death benefit beneficiary.

Randy never designated Diana as his death benefit beneficiary. No Domestic Relations Order was ever entered by which Diana’s entitlement was ordered, nor was NYCERS otherwise notified of Diana’s entitlement before Randy’s death. Indeed, in 2009, Randy had designated his children as beneficiaries of his death benefit.

Here, Diana had sued Jewell and NYCERS, itself, seeking to enforce the Settlement Agreement insofar as it gave her rights to receive Randy’s retirement system death benefit.Continue Reading Ex-Wife's Failure to Obtain DRO Before Ex-Husband's Death Not a Bar to Recovery of Retirement Plan Death Benefits