How to Request a QDRO at a Divorce

By Marcelle Greene Edins J.D.
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is necessary for the release of funds from a federal pension plan to an alternate payee.

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A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a court order that gives instructions to a pension or retirement plan on how to release funds in the case of a divorce. A QDRO is only relevant to pension or retirement plans that are governed by federal law, such as a 401(k). A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is required by the retirement plan administrators in order to disperse funds to an alternate payee such as a spouse.

Talk to an attorney about the asset division of the marital estate. If either party has a qualifying federal pension or retirement plan, request that the attorney draft a QDRO to accompany the other divorce paperwork, including the final divorce decree.

Obtain a free QDRO sample form from the Internet or the local law library. Draft a Qualified Domestic Relations Order form if you are representing yourself in the divorce proceedings. The QDRO form requires more detailed information than a typical marital property division clause in a divorce decree. For that reason, it is good idea to consult an attorney with experience working with Qualified Domestic Relations Orders. However, if working with an attorney is not desired, follow the instructions on the form itself and fill in the necessary figures and facts.

Send the prepared Qualified Domestic Relations Order to the plan administrator for the pension plan. Contact the human resources department of your employer to get the information on the administrator of the pension plan. The QDRO must first be approved by the pension plan administrator before it is presented to the court in a hearing. It can take a few months to get a QDRO approved by a plan administrator, so it is best to be organized if a QDRO is necessary in the case.

Present the plan-approved Qualified Domestic Relations Order, along with the other divorce orders, to the judge for a signature at the divorce hearing. Re-submit the approved and signed QDRO to the pension plan administrator.

About the Author

Marcelle Greene Edins began writing in 1999 and has written for "Today's Builder" magazine and online for various websites. She is presently writing her first novel. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a J.D. from St. Mary's University School of Law.

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