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Understanding QDROs


When couples divorce, they must decide how to divide up all of their assets. This includes not only personal possessions, bank accounts, and the family home, but also things like retirement assets. Splitting up these kinds of assets, however, can be complicated and when an employee retirement plan is involved, also requires a QDRO. Read on to learn more about these kinds of legal orders and how they can help ensure an equitable division of a 401(k) account or pension plan.

What is a QDRO? 

A QDRO, or Qualified Domestic Relationship Order is a legal document that outlines how a couple will divide retirement assets when a non-employee spouse is receiving a portion of an employee spouse’s retirement benefits from a 401(k) account or pension plan. These orders also outline payment details, like how much a non-employee spouse can expect to receive, as well as the method of receipt. How much of a retirement plan, a spouse can receive in a divorce depends on:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • How much of the asset was earned during the course of the marriage; and
  • The type of retirement plan in question.

A QDRO will also list how a person receives his or her portion of a spouse’s retirement account, a factor that could depend on the type of retirement plan. Generally, a spouse who has been issued a QDRO can choose to:

  • Receive the asset in the form of an annuity;
  • Receive the amount in regular installments;
  • Collect the amount in a lump sum;
  • Keep the assets in the account, but retain the right to invest; or
  • Transfer the funds to a different retirement account.

Without such an order, a non-employee spouse won’t be able to access his or her share of an asset that was accrued during the course of the marriage, which can result in significant financial strain.

How Do I Obtain a QDRO? 

How a person goes about obtaining a QDRO will depend in large part on the type of retirement plan in question. The general process, however, involves:

  • Identifying the retirement asset that needs to be divided;
  • Figuring out the percentage of the asset to which the non-employee spouse is entitled;
  • Drafting a QDRO to meet the retirement plan’s specific requirements;
  • Submitting the QDRO to a judge for approval; and
  • Sending the approved QDRO to the administrator of the retirement plan for implementation.

Each of these steps comes with its own difficulties, making it especially important for those who believe that they are entitled to a portion of a spouse’s retirement account, to reach out to an experienced attorney for help.

Call Today for Help with Your Divorce 

Splitting up retirement assets tends to be one of the more challenging aspects of the property division process. For help obtaining or enforcing a QDRO, please call experienced Florida property division lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. today. You can set up a free case review by calling our office at 954-945-7591 or by sending us an online message.


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