QDRO Basics (#3 of 5 Installments)

by Norris Law Group on February 12, 2014

qdro-attorneyOur previous installment provided an example of what a 50/50 split based on the terms of a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) might look like, and of the language which should be included in an effective QDRO. This installment discusses how a QDRO should be written to compliment a divorce decree, as well as when a QDRO should be drafted.

Effect of the Divorce Decree

Whatever is written in the divorce decree will determine how the QDRO will need to be written. It should state how the retirement accounts are supposed to be split: this can include the percentage each party should get, the reference dates to use, which accounts the decree applies to, and etc. The more detailed the divorce decree, the easier it is to draft the QDRO. However, even vague decrees need to be followed as best as possible. The decree can split the retirement in many different ways depending on what the court determines is equitable or the parties agree to. If the divorce decree only states that the retirement will be split 50/50 as of the date of the divorce, then the ex-spouse will only be entitled to half of the amount in the retirement account on the divorce date (or other date referenced in the decree). If there are two accounts, such as a 401(k) and a pension, then the ex-spouse will get 50% of both. The plan administrator will know how much that amount should be.

When to draft a QDRO

Ideally, a QDRO is drafted at the same time as the divorce decree. If not, it can be done later, preferably before the benefits are eligible for disbursement. If the QDRO is drafted before the plan participant retires, the entire process is much simpler, with each party typically getting what they are entitled to by the divorce decree. A QDRO can be made after retirement, however, there are some possible consequences.

Although QDROs are required by federal law, many attorneys do not draft them, based on their extremely technical requirements. Attorney Graham Norris has several years of experience drafting QDROs from private plans, government plans and the military. Other attorneys also refer their clients to Graham Norris for the drafting of QDROs. He can  draft QDROs for divorce decrees originating in Utah, Idaho, California or Wyoming. Contact his offices today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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