If you are going through a divorce, you will be confronted with the need to divide your assets with your former spouse. This includes any retirement accounts, which can be a substantial asset for any individual. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a special court order that grants an individual a right to a portion of their former spouse’s retirement benefits from an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This could make a huge impact on either party’s financial situation so it is an important consideration in any divorce proceeding.
How Do I Get a QDRO?
In order to secure a QDRO, the individual seeking the benefit must:
- Notify your former spouse’s retirement benefit and ensure they provide all information about the benefit to the court;
- Obtain judgement
- Obtain sample language from an administrator
Information that will be important in the proceeding includes:
- The Summary Plan Description;
- Your former spouse’s benefit statements;
- A copy of the plan’s model QDRO, if one exists; and
- A copy of any other QDRO your former spouse may have on file.
Why is a QDRO Important?
Ensuring you get a valid QDRO in place through the courts is important because private plans will refuse to pay out any benefits unless there is a compliant QDRO in place. While each plan will have specific QDRO requirements, you can expect any QDRO to include:
- The name and address of the participant in the plan and the new payee;
- The percentage of the benefit allocated to the new payee; and
- The plan administrator’s contact information or their attorney
It is important that the QDRO follow any plan-specific requirements because it is not enforceable until it is accepted by the retirement plan.
If you are seeking benefits from a non-private retirement plan, such as a plan administered by the federal government, you will need to seek an alternate course for securing these benefits.