You and your spouse have decided to call it quits. After months of negotiating your divorce is “final,” and in your hands is an official court order awarding you one half of your ex-spouse’s retirement / pension account. Wonderful! But just exactly how are you supposed to get your money?
QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order)
The answer is….by using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, otherwise known as a QDRO (pronounced qua-drow). The QDRO is a separate order signed by the judge and entered in your divorce file, sometimes months after the divorce is actually granted. Your attorney will draft the QDRO only after obtaining information directly from the administrator of the retirement / pension plan regarding any special rules that plan has. Your attorney will then send a draft of the QDRO to the retirement / pension plan for pre-approval. Once that pre-approval is received, your attorney will forward the QDRO to the judge for signature. After receiving the judge signed QDRO, your attorney will send it to the retirement / pension plan which will review the document again to make certain it satisfies all of their rules. The retirement / pension plan may charge you a fee for completing its review.
Only after all of these steps have been completed will you get your money. As you can imagine, this process can take months to accomplish, and often times does.