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Determine if you need a qualified domestic relations order

There's no reason that most people will ever hear of a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) unless they are getting a divorce and have a pension plan to split. So it can become an afterthought that needs to be addressed after the divorce has already been finalized.

That can add unnecessary charges to one's legal bills, so it's better to decide ahead of time whether or not you will need a QDRO drafted, filed and signed in your Manassas divorce.

What is a QDRO?

Qualified domestic relation orders either define or acknowledge that an alternate payee exists and is legally entitled to all or some of the pension plan participant's retirement benefits.

Isn't that included in my judgment of divorce?

It can be, but your divorce decree or order that details how your marital property must be divided won't usually contain the specific information that would qualify it as a QDRO.

Who benefits from a QDRO?

Because it's always best to have your legal ducks in line, the plan participant benefits, but also any spouses, former spouses, children and other dependents. QDROs relate to the distribution of retirement pension benefits as child or spousal support or as part of the division or marital property post-divorce.

Sounds like I might need one. What does it contain?

QDROs must conform to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), where divorce judgments typically fall far short.

In order to qualify as a QDRO, the document must contain all of the following:

  • The retirement plan participant's legal name and also the person's last known mailing address;
  • The names and last known mailing addresses of the alternate payee(s);
  • The amount of the pension that is to be distributed, or the percentage of the total or other method delineating the payable portion.
  • How many payments will be made over what timeframe to the alternate payee(s).

These are the most basic rules with which QDROs must comply. However, often individual plans will have additional requirements that must be included in order for the QDRO to be sufficient for purposes of benefit distribution. Each plan's requirements can be obtained by you or your lawyer from the administrator of the specific plan.

Just as all QDROs must contain certain language, there are also specific things which may not become part of the Order. Your family law attorney can address that with you if you have further questions.

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