The QDRO Process
1. Gathering information.
First, I need the personal information about both spouses in the intake form (click here for form). I’ll also need a copy of the divorce judgment or separation agreement or both, so I’ll know what share is going to each party, a recent plan statement and, if available a copy of the Summary Plan Description and QDRO Procedures.
2. Drafting your QDRO.
Once all the intake details are in hand, I will draft your QDRO. I make every effort to accomplish this step within one week of my receipt of all requested information and the fee.
3. Pre-Approval by you and the Plan as a draft.
The draft of the QDRO is sent to the pension plan administrator, you and your lawyer for pre-approval. If your divorce was mediated, I will send it to the other spouse and mediator as well. This is done simultaneously to save time. Please do not sign your QDRO until step 4 is completed. Both you and the Plan Administrator may request changes in the draft QDRO. Please review the draft carefully. Make sure all information is accurate. If you have any questions about the draft or corrections to be made, please call (845-638-4666) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. Revision of the Draft QDRO.
It is not unusual for Plan Administrators to request changes in QDROs. It seems to happen around half the time. These usually involve minor changes in wording, not the amounts involved. For example, many plan administrators require certain language in QDROs that is not be required by law, but I must use their language to get the QDRO approved. So, do not be upset or concerned if you receive a copy of a letter from the plan requesting changes in the draft QDRO. I will discuss the plan’s proposed changes when they involve anything other than mere wording. A few corporate plans (as well as Federal civil service pension plans) do not review draft QDROs. In such cases, plan pre-approval is omitted and I proceed directly to the next step. I will make the changes and resubmit to the Plan for pre-approval.
5. Signature By You (and the Other Party).
After the plan grants pre-approval, I will send the QDRO to you (and your spouse, if mediated) for signature. If the divorce was litigated, the other spouse’s signature is not needed, but instead they receive notice of the filing of the QDRO and can object to it if they wish. Objections are ruled on by the Judge.
6. Signature of QDRO by a Judge of the Divorce Court.
Once the QDRO has been approved in draft form, it is presented to the Divorce Court for signature by a Judge. This step may be done by the party (or parties) and/or the attorney(s), or by me. The QDRO is often submitted together with the other divorce papers. Sometimes it is submitted before the divorce is final, and sometimes after the divorce is signed by the Judge. Waiting until after the divorce is a very bad idea and should be avoided if at all possible.
7. Obtain a certified copy of the QDRO.
After the judge signs the QDRO, we need to obtain a certified copy of the QDRO from the clerk of the court. A certified copy is sent to the Plan Administrator for final approval, acceptance, and payment.
8. Final Approval by the plan.
Usually, final approval happens very quickly, especially if the plan has already reviewed the QDRO as a draft.