Many times you will want to divide one or more retirement or pension plans as part of a property settlement in a divorce. This is accomplished by drafting a QDRO that will be presented to the plan administrator for that retirement plan. The QDRO will tell the plan administrator how to divide a retirement account between the former spouses.
A retirement plan can represent a lot of money and you want to be sure to divide it fairly between the spouses.
QDRO - Qualified Domestic Relations Order - A domestic relations order signed by the judge which creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee's right or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a member or retiree under a private or public retirement plan, which directs the private or public retirement plan administrator to disburse benefits to the alternate payee.
A QDRO is usually required before retirement benefits can go to someone other than the person who earned them through employment. Most plan administrators who run the retirement plans are very fussy and demanding about the language used in the QDRO to make sure that it meets their requirements and applicable federal and state laws. Many family law attorneys hire an expert to draft a QDRO in their cases. It is foolhardy for a pro se party to try to draft a QDRO for their own case.
The very best way to divide a retirement account is to use an expert who drafts these orders on a regular basis. If you are going to be foolish and try to do it yourself, it is frequently best to obtain a model QDRO form online or directly from the plan administrator for the specific retirement plan that is being divided. After you complete the form, the judge will sign it at the time the divorce decree is signed. The QDRO is then forwarded to the plan administrator for approval. If the QDRO is not approved by the plan administrator, then it will need to be amended and signed again by the judge and then resubmitted to the plan administrator until it receives the approval of the plan administrator.
Based on past experience, I do not personally draft QDRO's. I hire someone who drafts them for me. I pay their fee and they provide us with a suitable QDRO that we get the judge to sign and then we present it to the plan administrator. I charge $1200 at this time to get a QDRO drafted and processed so that a retirement account or pension plan can be divided as part of a divorce. (I pay the drafter's fee out of the $1200 that I charge for a QDRO.)
Call me if you have a question about dividing retirement plans as part of the divorce process.