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.

1. Intake

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. (If you are not an attorney, please download and read our Non-Attorney Disclosure. We are not attorneys, and strongly recommend working with counsel throughout the QDRO process.)

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.

3. Plan Research / Drafting

Each plan has its own rules on what they will accept to divide the retirement asset, and we contact them to determine their requirements.

We will advise you if we require any further documentation. In the event that you have any of the following items, please provide them with your initial submission; this may expedite the process.

  • Any additional participant-specific plan information (i.e., balances for use in offset, etc.)

  • Model QDRO Language

  • Written QDRO Procedures

  • Summary Plan Description

  • Plan/TPA contact information

We draft the QDRO to:

  • Uphold the intent of the separation agreement / divorce decree

  • Address details such as loans, gain/loss, or pre- 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), along with private addendum, to the plan administrator, and the plan formally approves it and accepts it as a qualified order.

8. Disbursement

The plan administrator 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 they have received the certified copy, and to complete any further forms required in order to arrange for distribution.

PASA, Inc. QDRO Policies:


Please note that although we are experts in preparing QDROs, we are not attorneys. We provide document preparation services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm, a substitute for an attorney or law firm, mediators, tax specialists, or financial advisors. We always strongly recommend that any pro se parties seek an attorney prior to the filing of the QDRO to ensure that their best interests are advocated properly. Please download and review our Non-Attorney Disclosure.

Personal Information

The QDRO document will include the parties’ addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. The parties’ dates of birth and Social Security numbers will be listed in a private addendum, which will be shared with the plan administrator and both parties. We will not share this information with anyone other than the parties, attorneys, or plan administrator for any reason outside of the purpose of facilitating the QDRO-drafting process. Please advise if any circumstances require any personal information to be impounded or held confidential from the other party.

Calculations - General Policy

As a neutral party, if requested, we may provide calculations for your approval in order to facilitate the QDRO process (marital coverture calculation, retirement account offset calculation, etc.). Please note that our expertise is within the drafting of QDRO documents. We cannot confirm the validity of statements received or that our calculations (or calculations provided by the parties) include the full extent of the intended accounts to be divided. Some statements may not clearly indicate all information such as vesting status, and pre- or post-tax contribution allocation, and so we defer to your direction/advice. Please review any calculation provided by us carefully to ensure that it is in accordance with your agreement. We suggest seeking a different financial professional expert for calculations if further expertise is required in this part of the process. If the intent is for both sides to review all statements, we suggest copying opposing counsel when sending to us, as we do not facilitate the sharing of these documents for privacy purposes. The most streamlined approach, whenever possible, is to include the final dollar amount in the parties' separation agreement.

Offset Calculations
One common option is to use the minimum number of QDROs to effectuate an offset. In our experience, attorneys and courts have generally found this to be a reasonable means of equalization, as it may be more efficient in both time and money for the parties involved. Please note with this approach, the QDRO would be specific to one account, and the gain/loss assigned in that QDRO is also specific to that account. The nature of performing an offset with one QDRO assumes that any differences in actual gain/loss between the individual accounts and the account being divided are acceptable to the parties. An alternative would be a separate QDRO for each retirement account.

There are some factors to consider, including what types of retirement assets are being divided: defined contribution plans, defined benefit (pension) plans, pre-tax or post-tax (Roth), types of investments (liquidity), etc. As QDRO drafters, we can’t advise as to what is best for each unique situation. The parties may want to consult a financial advisor/tax expert to arrive at a plan that works best for them, whether that means offsetting some or all retirement assets.

PASA, Inc. provides valuation services and document preparation services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. Any opinion provided by us is not to be construed as legal advice or tax/accounting advice.