Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)
Qualified Domestic Relations Orders or “QDROs” are specialized orders meant to divide a qualified plan under ERISA. The term is commonly used to describe these often post-decree orders that divide many retirement plan benefits. People will often get divorced and forget that the retirement order has never been entered; this can be a very detrimental occurrence that should be dealt with as soon as practicably possible after a divorce.
Additionally, many orders are often called QDROs but they aren’t technically a QDRO (because the plan itself isn’t qualified under ERISA). Thus, while in the legal world they may be referred to as a QDRO (you may have heard that term already repeatedly), they are really just another form of a specialized, post-decree type order. A “traditional” QDRO so to speak is one that deals with something like a 401k plan. IRAs do not typically require a “QDRO” as they are not a qualified plan though if the Decree is drafted poorly it still may require another retirement division type order. Military pensions (or Thrift Savings Plan – TSPs) and many State pensions, or retirement accounts, are also not “qualified” for the purposes of being an actual QDRO though they do often require a specialized post-decree order to divide them.
Unfortunately, there are not many lawyers that practice in this area of law. It is unfortunate because mistakes will be made in the Decree drafting process and benefits may not be divided properly, or understood properly, that can affect the underlying asset/debt distribution (or even things such as a loss of a survivor benefit option). It is important to work with your lawyer to ensure they have ample knowledge of the retirement plan prior to getting to the QDRO, or post-decree, phase.
All that said, we at Purcell Law often draft and execute QDROs and other post-decree retirement division orders. They can range from Military Pension Division Orders (or MPDOs), SERs, PERs and even CSRS/FERS (Civil Service Retirement System/ Federal Employee Retirement System) type orders. Mathew drafts and works with a multitude of plan administrators so that these orders are drafted carefully and accurately whether that is during the pendency of the divorce case or only after the divorce if finalized.