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What Is A QDRO & How Does It Affect My Divorce Case?

If you are going through a divorce, or you are considering starting the process, you may already be familiar with the term “QDRO.” If you have not heard the term before, it may be important to your case, so it is important to familiarize yourself with it. A QDRO stands for a qualified domestic relations order. The orders are legal documents and they govern the division of qualified retirement plans when a couple gets divorced. Below, our Columbus family lawyer outlines how these orders work, why you may need one, and how to obtain one.

How Do QDROs Work?

QDROs govern the division of retirement savings and the person that is the holder of the account is known as the participant. The other spouse, who the court will eventually grant a portion of the retirement plan, is usually known as the alternate payee. In most circumstances, the court will grant the QDRO during the divorce process, but there are times when a person may file for a QDRO once the divorce case is final.

Neither party in a divorce case is legally obligated to agree to or sign a QDRO. Instead, a family court judge will determine how to divide the retirement account and what it will be used for, such as child support or alimony. In the event that the alternate payee passes away, it is possible for the QDRO to continue pay survivor benefits.

What Does A QDRO Include?

The requirements of what must be included in a QDRO vary. However, the retirement plan in question is generally what dictates the elements that must be included in a QDRO. The majority of retirement savings plans have certain requirements for information that the QDRO must include, depending on what the company offering the retirement account will accept.

Generally speaking, a QDRO will include the names of both parties, the participant and the alternate payee. It will also include the mailing address for both parties, and the amount each party must receive from the plan. Although not necessarily required, a QDRO may also include the participant’s plan number, the name of the plan, and the social security numbers of all parties involved. Sometimes, other information pertaining to the benefits are also included, such as the payment duration and the reason for it.

The Importance Of A QDRO

Not every divorce case will require a QDRO, but they are necessary when one party in a divorce is part of a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k). A QDRO is necessary in these cases to determine how the retirement savings will be divided in a divorce. QDROs are meant to protect the best interest of both parties. Under the law, participants in retirement plans cannot legally give the assets from a qualified plan to another person. As such, when a QDRO is in place, the plan can only pay benefits to the alternate payee.

How To Obtain A QDRO

The process of obtaining a QDRO begins during the divorce process but only after each party has provided the court with a detail of their assets. There are three important steps when obtaining a QDRO, and they are as follows:

  • Speak to a lawyer: A family lawyer that is well-versed in the divorce process, particularly when a retirement account is involved, will be familiar with what is needed. A lawyer will answer all of your questions, explain your options, and help you every step of the way.
  • Notify the court: If necessary, the court will issue a QDRO but it is possible for you and your spouse to reach an agreement on your goals and the details of the QDRO. Still, when trying to reach an agreement, a lawyer will make sure it includes all the necessary information, and that it meets the regulations of the state and the plan.
  • Contact the plan: Your next step is to contact a representative at the qualified retirement plan that is subject to a QDRO. Once the plan reviews the QDRO, the representative from the plan will notify you or your lawyer about whether they have approved it.

Our Family Lawyers In Columbus Can Help with Your QDRO

If you are getting a divorce and believe you need a QDRO, our Columbus family lawyers at Lawrence Law Office can help you through the process. Call us today at 614-228-3664 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help with your case.

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