When a couple is going through a divorce, they often know that they will need to divide their property and there may be decisions to make regarding child custody. However, they may not be aware of the requirements of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) and its role in the divorce.
Retirement plan benefits
A QDRO is a domestic relations order that creates or recognizes an alternate payee’s right to receive all or some of a participant’s benefits under a retirement plan. It is completed after the divorce is final.
The alternate payee must be a spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of the plan’s participant. The QDRO may be included with the divorce decree, a property settlement or it can be issued as a separate order.
The QDRO must contain the name and mailing address of the participant and payee, the name of each plan the order applies to, the amount to be paid to the payee and the number of payments or time period for the payments.
The administrators of the retirement plan that provides benefits affected by the order have specific responsibilities. They act as plan fiduciaries, meaning that they act in the interest of the plan participant and the beneficiaries. They are required to provide notice to participants and alternate payees when they receive the order and information about how they determine the status of an order.
It is very important that QDROs are completed accurately and they can be very complex. An experienced attorney can answer questions about the QDRO process, provide representation for divorce matters and help parties make informed decisions.