A Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP) is an important legal action in a divorce settlement. It governs the division of retirement assets for people who have worked for the government in the Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System.
Importance of COAPs
With a regular qualified retirement account, such as a 401(k), a combination of plan rules and the judge’s decisions will determine how the assets are handled in divorce. Most employees of the federal and other levels of government have special kinds of retirement accounts with different rules and regulations. One significant example is when one or both spouses worked in the military. The COAP is a legal order that informs all parties how one of those retirement accounts will be settled.
A COAP can describe one or more of three different kinds of retirement accounts during a divorce. First, there is a standard employee annuity; next, the survivor annuity for a previous spouse; lastly, a refunded set of employee contributions to a retirement plan. The COAP might jointly consider the monetary value of these types of assets, and the order will tell the Office of Personnel Management how to handle the transactions and details for dividing the assets. The OPM will not move forward with asset division unless they have a correct and clear COAP.
When one spouse has federal retirement benefits, a COAP will start the process of dividing the assets between the two ex-spouses according to the court’s ruling of the general financial settlement for the divorce.