{3:00 minutes to read}  Some mediators and attorneys have heard of QDRO, and have even helped create a QDRO. Many know that it has to do with dividing a couple’s retirement assets during a divorce negotiation, but do they know what the letters in the acronym stand for and the meaning of each?

QDRO stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

O – Starting sort of backwards (because I think it makes a little more sense that way), the word Order refers to a court order; a piece of paper that is signed by a judge, in connection with a divorce case.

DR – Divorce cases, in the legal system, are also called Domestic Relations cases. The DR is a way of referring to divorce.

The big surprise, however, is that you don’t have to always be divorced to get a QDRO signed by a judge. That depends upon where the QDRO is being submitted:

If it’s going to a corporate employer’s 401K or a corporate employer’s pension plan, you don’t have to be divorced. But if the court order is going to a government plan, whether it’s a federal government employee, a state government employee in New York, a city employee or anybody who’s involved with the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Teachers’ Retirement — all of those government employees must wait till they get divorced. They don’t have the option of doing it when they are only separated.

Corporate employees have the option of submitting a QDRO to the divorce court, but not actually getting divorced. For some people, that’s an attractive option, because they want to stay married because of health insurance. If you’re not divorced, usually you can stay on your spouse’s health insurance plan. Sometimes that represents a very, very big cost savings. The ability to have the QDRO done without getting divorced in a corporate situation is very attractive.

Q – Stands for Qualified, but Qualified by who?

What’s important here is that it is qualified by a plan administrator. Every pension and retirement plan, 401K plan, 403B, all have somebody who is responsible for reviewing QDROs to ensure that they meet that plan’s requirements, so they can be properly administered.

QDROs are complicated legal documents with many facets to be considered. If you would like to speak with me regarding a QDRO, please contact me at 845-638-4666. 

Steven L. Abel, Esq.
101 South Broadway
Nyack, NY 10960
(P) 845-638-4666
(E) [email protected]