QDRO Process Flow
When divorce occurs, the marital assets to be divided often include a retirement plan, such as a pension, 401(k), 403(b), etc. A legal document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is usually necessary to divide a retirement asset. A QDRO instructs the plan to assign a portion of the participant’s asset to the former spouse as an alternate payee. Attorneys work with both parties and prepare a court-approved agreement to specify how the retirement assets are to be divided. Typically, it is 50% of what was earned during the marriage, but it could be more complicated and may involve an offset taking into account other assets.
Attorneys may complete our QDRO Request Form which lists the information we need, and fax, email, mail, or upload the information to us. If we are missing any information we will follow up until we receive it.
- Fax: 978.600.1487
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mail: 500 West Cummings Park, Suite 2500, Woburn, MA 01801
- Click Here to Securely Upload Files
2. Parties' Approval
After reviewing your documents, we will contact you to confirm our assumptions and ensure we uphold the intent of the parties' Separation Agreement.
Each plan has its own rules on what they will accept to divide the retirement asset, and we contact them to determine their requirements. Note that as each plan is different, a separate QDRO is needed for each asset being divided.
We draft the QDRO to:
- Uphold the intent of the separation agreement / divorce decree.
- Address any issues such as pre-retirement and post-retirement survivor benefits.
- Contain all of the personal information the plan needs.
- Conform to the plan rules.
- Conform to federal and state law.
QDROs for private plans are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Retirement Equity Act (REA) of 1984, and state laws. Government pension plans (for military, police, teachers, etc.) each have their own set of laws.
4. Plan Administrator Preapproval
Typically 1-3 months, depending on the plan
Once the QDRO is drafted, we send a copy to the plan for preapproval (if they allow it), so the plan can look at the document before it goes through the court system, as it is very difficult to change once through court. Within approximately a month or two later, depending on the plan, we receive a letter stating that the QDRO has been preapproved, and that the plan will divide the retirement asset accordingly, once they receive a certified copy.
5. Parties' Signatures
From here, our job is done. We send the final draft QDRO to the attorneys, and they coordinate parties' signatures as necessary.
6. Filing QDRO with the Court
The attorneys will submit the signed QDRO to the court. The judge then approves and signs it, and the attorney requests a certified copy with raised seal.
7. Filing the Certified Copy of the QDRO to the Plan
The attorneys then submit the certified copy (with raised seal) to the plan, and the plan formally approves it and accepts it as a qualified order.
The Plan then executes it immediately or keeps it on file until benefits commence. The plan contacts the parties directly for disbursement. The alternate payee needs to follow up with the plan directly to ensure that the plan has received the certified copy, and to complete any further forms required in order to arrange for distribution.