50-20.1. Pension and retirement benefits.

(a) The award of vested pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits may be made payable:

(1) As a lump sum by agreement;

(2) Over a period of time in fixed amounts by agreement;

(3) By appropriate domestic relations order as a prorated portion of the benefits made to the designated recipient at the time the party against whom the award is made actually begins to receive the benefits; or

(4) By awarding a larger portion of other assets to the party not receiving the benefits and a smaller share of other assets to the party entitled to receive the benefits.

(b) The award of nonvested pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits may be made payable:

(1) As a lump sum by agreement;

(2) Over a period of time in fixed amounts by agreement; or

(3) By appropriate domestic relations order as a prorated portion of the benefits made to the designated recipient at the time the party against whom the award is made actually begins to receive the benefits.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) and (b) of this section, the court shall not require the administrator of the fund or plan involved to make any payments until the party against whom the award is made actually begins to receive the benefits unless the plan permits an earlier distribution.

(d) The award shall be determined using the proportion of time the marriage existed (up to the date of separation of the parties), simultaneously with the employment which earned the vested and nonvested pension, retirement, or deferred compensation benefit, to the total amount of time of employment. The award shall be based on the vested and nonvested accrued benefit, as provided by the plan or fund, calculated as of the date of separation, and shall not include contributions, years of service, or compensation which may accrue after the date of separation. The award shall include gains and losses on the prorated portion of the benefit vested at the date of separation.

(e) No award shall exceed fifty percent (50%) of the benefits the person against whom the award is made is entitled to receive as vested and nonvested pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits, except that an award may exceed fifty percent (50%) if (i) other assets subject to equitable distribution are insufficient; or (ii) there is difficulty in distributing any asset or any interest in a business, corporation, or profession; or (iii) it is economically desirable for one party to retain an asset or interest that is intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party; or (iv) more than one pension or retirement system or deferred compensation plan or fund is involved, but the benefits award may not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the total benefits of all the plans added together; or (v) both parties consent. In no event shall an award exceed fifty percent (50%) if a plan prohibits an award in excess of fifty percent (50%).

(f) In the event the person receiving the award dies, the unpaid balance, if any, of the award shall pass to the beneficiaries of the recipient by will, if any, or by intestate succession, or by beneficiary designation with the plan consistent with the terms of the plan unless the plan prohibits such designation. In the event the person against whom the award is made dies, the award to the recipient shall remain payable to the extent permitted by the pension or retirement system or deferred compensation plan or fund involved.

(g) The court may require distribution of the award by means of a qualified domestic relations order, or as defined in section 414(p) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or by other appropriate order. To facilitate the calculating and payment of distributive awards, the administrator of the system, plan, or fund may be ordered to certify the total contributions, years of service, and pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits payable.

(h) This section and G.S. 50-21 shall apply to all pension, retirement, and other deferred compensation plans and funds, including vested and nonvested military pensions eligible under the federal Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act, and including funds administered by the State pursuant to Articles 84 through 88 of Chapter 58 and Chapters 120, 127A, 128, 135, 143, 143B, and 147 of the General Statutes, to the extent of a member's accrued benefit at the date of separation, as determined by the court. (1997-212, s. 1.)