Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) for California
The term Q.D.R.O stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order.
It is a judgment or order that is made under California family law codes and:
Relates to the provision of support or property rights to an “alternate payee”;
Creates, acknowledges, or assigns to an alternate payee a right to rceive benefits under the pension or retirement plan, and
Meets certain statutory requirements.
Congress enacted laws in 1984, making it easier for former spouses to receive a portion of the pension benefits awarded to them. A (QDRO) is a court order, separate from your divorce decree, instructing the Plan Administrator to distribute your share of the retirement benefits to you. If you have been awarded a portion of your former spouse’s pension or retirement benefits, it is very important that a QDRO be prepared, and as soon as possible, here’s why:
[mpinpage]Even if you are awarded one-half of your former spouse’s pension, and he/she dies without a QDRO on file, you will be entitled to nothing.
Your Marital Settlement Agreement awards you your community half of the pension or 401(k) Plan and the Participant cashes it out, the employer is obligated to give it to him/her if there is no QDRO.
If a QDRO was not received by the Plan Administrator before the Participant (your former spouse) actually retires, you lose options and may lose benefits!
Not every pension and 401K plan requires a QDRO. You may contact you or your spouse’s human resource department or retirement plan administrator to determine if you need one. If so, the draft Q.D.R.O. must first be approved by the actual plan before it can be submitted to the Court for approval. This process may proceed quickly or may be delayed for several months depending on the company. After the company approves the QDRO., you and your spouse will need to sign it and it will then be submitted to the Court for the Judge’s signature. The order is then sent to the retirement plan administrator for implementation.
The author of this article, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal with over 15 years of experience in California family law matters, including the preparation of QDRO’s.[/mpinpage]