Graham Norris and the associates at the Norris Law Group are renowned for our ability to draft Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, often referred to as QDROs (pronounced quadros). A QDRO is a “judgment, decree, or order…” that is made pursuant to state domestic relations law [and] to the provision of child support, alimony payments, or marital property rights for the benefit of a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant” (per the US Department of Labor).

A QDRO is often required in a divorce in which benefits from one spouse’s pension or other retirement plan(s) have been ordered to be shared with the other spouse or a with a child at the time of disbursement. QDROs are required by federal law, as referenced in federal statues including in ERISA § 206(d)(3)(B)(i) and IRC § 414(p)(1)(A).

QDRO Terminology

Participant – The person enrolled in the retirement plan, and the person who is transferring part or all of his or her interest in the plan to a spouse or child as part of a divorce agreement.

Alternate payee – The person to whom part or all of the benefits from the retirement plan are transferred. The alternate payee may be the spouse or a child of the marriage.

Each state has its own laws regarding QDROs, and the Norris Law Group is skilled in drafting QDROs according to the laws of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Those with retirement plans in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) who divorce may need a Domestic Relations Order (DRO), which is actually a bit different than a QDRO. The Norris Law Group has extensive experience drafting DROs for CALPERS retirees as well.

Your divorce attorney may advise you to wait until after your divorce is final before consulting an attorney to draft a QDRO to handle the division of your 401(k), military pension or other retirement plan. However, in order for a complete and accurate QDRO to be drafted, it is best to hire a QDRO lawyer while the divorce is still in progress. This is because there are several issues relating to the division of your retirement plan that should be addressed in your divorce decree. The QDRO attorneys at the Norris Law Group can advise you on these issues and consult with your divorce attorney to make sure these matters are adequately addressed in the divorce decree.

Issues associated with the division of a 401(k) or other retirement plan typically include:

  • Should one spouse be awarded the accrued interest or should the interest be divided between both spouses?
  • How precisely should the benefits from the retirement plan be divided?
  • What should happen to the benefits if the participant or the alternate payee dies before the benefit payout begins or while the benefit payout is in progress?

Once a QDRO has been drafted and approved by the Court, funds are distributed per the terms outlined in the QDRO. A number of retirement and pension provide information for investors on how QDROs should be drafted within their respective plans. Contact your individual retirement plan provider(s) for more information.

Although QDROs are required by federal law, most attorneys do not draft QDROs due to the high level of technicality and detail involved. Attorney Graham Norris has several years of experience drafting QDROs from private plans, government plans and the military, and can provide clients with full service regarding both the drafting of QDROs and divorce decrees originating in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Law firms and attorneys throughout Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming refer their clients to the Norris Law Group for the drafting of QDROs, and for DROs for members of CALPERS. Contact our offices today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation to discuss your QDRO or DRO.