Frequently Asked Questions About QDROs


General

What does an order look like?

View samples of a domestic relations order, but do not use them as an actual order.

Do I need an attorney to do my QDRO?

No, you don't need an attorney to complete your QDRO. You may work with the judge and courts directly. You should contact your local courthouse for its processes and procedures. Be aware, however, there are many ways to draft the terms of a QDRO. Dividing retirement benefits in domestic relations proceedings involves complex matters such as marital rights, legal issues, and tax consequences. You may wish to consult an attorney to best handle your case.

Is my divorce decree sufficient to be considered a QDRO?

Typically, no. A divorce decree often omits some information that's needed for the employer's QDRO requirements. Occasionally, the QDRO is written into the divorce decree and does contain all the necessary employer QDRO requirements.

How do I get the employer's model language?

Contact us for a copy of the employer's QDRO model language.

Do I need to send in a copy of my divorce decree with my QDRO?

No. The Qualified Order Center doesn't need the divorce decree with the QDRO. Because your divorce decree generally contains personal and confidential information not related to your QDRO or the retirement plan, you should not send it.

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Who is responsible for submitting the QDRO?

Either party or the party's attorney may submit the QDRO to the Qualified Order Center.

How much will my ex-spouse be entitled to?

The Qualified Order Center can't tell you that. You and your spouse or ex-spouse and the court will determine the appropriate division of retirement benefits in your case.

Why do we need to provide the alternate payee's date of birth and Social Security Number?

The plan record keepers require the alternate payee's date of birth and Social Security Number for items such as setting up an account in the alternate payee's system, security, and benefit calculations to name a few. QDROs that omit this information will hold up the qualification process and delay the benefit payment to the alternate payee.

I'm concerned about privacy issues. Do I have to include my Social Security Number and date of birth in the actual order?

No, the Qualified Order Center will accept these pieces of information on a separately attached document that isn't filed with the court. The QDRO should explicitly reference that attached document, and the attached document should be mailed to the Qualified Order Center with the QDRO.

Is a filed stamp acceptable for court certification?

No, a filed stamp isn't a court certification stamp. For court certification, the clerk of the court must certify the document with a stamp or seal that indicates the order is certified. See the employer's specific QDRO requirements for more information. Contact us to request this document if you don't already have it.

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How do I get the restriction removed from my account or benefit?

Look at the employer's specific QDRO requirements that you received when the order was sent to the plan. The employer's QDRO requirements will address the rules for removing a restriction. Contact us for a copy of the employer's specific QDRO requirements if you didn't already get them.

How long does it take to receive a response after I send in my QDRO?

Typically, you'll receive a response from the Qualified Order Center 30 days from the date the Qualified Order Center received your QDRO. There are some cases requiring further research and review that may take longer than 30 days.

What happens after my order is approved by the Qualified Order Center?

The Qualified Order Center will contact the appropriate record keeper with the terms of your QDRO. You should contact the record keeper at the number listed in the Next Steps section of the Qualification Notice sent to you. This person will be able to give you more information on your benefit.

I'm in the process of getting a QDRO for my ex-spouse's retirement plan. How do I change my address?

If the order hasn't yet been approved by the plan, update your address in the next order that's submitted. If the order has already been approved by the plan, you must contact the appropriate record keeper to change your address.

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Defined Benefit

I'm the retiree, and I noticed that my monthly pension check is reduced. Why?

As soon as the Qualified Order Center receives a QDRO, we're required to set aside the amount that might get awarded to the alternate payee.

How do I know which one of the employer's QDRO forms to choose?

You (or your attorney) should read each of the model language instructions for directions on when each model language should or can be used.

Can I get my money from the defined benefit plan right away?

Typically, the earliest an alternate payee may receive the benefit from a defined benefit plan is on or after the participant's earliest retirement age defined by the plan. However, some orders restrict the alternate payee from receiving the benefit until the participant actually receives the benefit. However, if the participant is already receiving monthly pension checks when the order is approved, the alternate payee will be able to begin receiving benefits right away. Remember that because most defined benefit payments are paid once a month, at the beginning of each month, it may take a couple of months until the alternate payee receives the first payment.

Can I get my defined benefit plan payment in a single lump sum?

Typically, no. Most defined benefit plans only pay participants and alternate payees a monthly benefit. However, some plan types are designed to allow for a lump-sum payment.

What happens to the alternate payee's benefit when the participant dies?

It depends on the language in the QDRO, the form of payment the participant chose if the participant is retired, and when the order was received compared to when the participant began receiving benefits. Sometimes the participant's death doesn't impact the alternate payee's benefit. Other times the participant's death stops the alternate payee's benefit.

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Defined Contribution

Why is there a restriction on my defined contribution plan account?

The plan is required to protect the money that might get awarded to the alternate payee. Therefore, a freeze is placed on the participant's defined contribution plan account. This freeze prohibits any money from leaving the plan through a distribution or loan. The participant is still able to change contribution amounts and investment choices.

I'm a participant. Can I take a loan from my defined contribution plan while the domestic relations order is being pursued?

No. The freeze on your account prohibits any money from leaving the plan through a loan, withdrawal, or distribution.

Why can't the plan accept an assignment like a percentage between 2 dates?

Typically, the plan isn't required to, nor does it keep historical defined contribution account information and specific fund investment gains or losses for that time frame. Therefore, assignment dates going back to historical dates are unacceptable because the plan doesn't have that information.

What's the difference between including and excluding loans?

The following examples outline the meaning of including and excluding loans.

Including Loans


Employee's account balance including loans $1,000
Employee's account balance excluding loans $900
Employee's outstanding loan balance $100
Assignment to the alternate payee 50% including loans

So, the alternate payee would receive 50% of $1,000, or $500.

Excluding Loans


Employee's account balance including loans $1,000
Employee's account balance excluding loans $900
Employee's outstanding loan balance $100
Assignment to the alternate payee 50% excluding loans

So, the alternate payee would receive 50% of $900, or $450.

Can I get the money from the defined contribution plan right away?

Typically, the alternate payee may receive the benefit from a defined contribution plan as soon as administratively possible after the order is qualified. Be advised there is some processing time necessary to establish the alternate payee's account and complete the necessary calculations.

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