In most states, retirement benefits accumulated during a marriage are to be divided at the time of divorce. The non-participant spouse is entitled to one-half of the benefits that were earned during the marriage.
But government pensions can be an exception to this general rule when the government pension participant doesn't contribute to social security. A few states allow a social security set-off to the overall value of the government pension when valuing the portion of the pension that was earned during the marriage.
In order for a beneficiary to waive retirement benefits in a divorce decree, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires that the divorce decree must specifically identify the benefits being waived. The waiver you signed may have been a more general waiver and not enough to block your rights as a beneficiary to the retirement accounts to which you are a designated beneficiary.
However, your state's laws may not follow ERISA rules. For example, in some states, an ex-spouse left as a beneficiary on her ex-husband's IRA may be entitled to the IRA even though the ex-spouse signed a waiver as part of the divorce settlement agreement. Check with a local qualified divorce attorney for advice about your specific situation
Generally, pensions are divided at the time of divorce under what's called a "qualified domestic relations order" (QDRO). This is a legal document that directs the pension plan administrator to divide the pension as outlined in the divorce decree. QDROs can be prepared in a variety of different ways, as long as they comply with the company's pension plan guidelines and conform with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
The non-participant spouse is usually entitled to the same rights under the plan as the participant spouse, such as cost-of-living adjustments and early withdrawal options, and is eligible to receive benefits payments as soon as the ex-spouse is entitled to receive them.