Retirement & QDROs – Challenge #4

For those who are not familiar with the term, a QDRO is a qualified domestic relations order. A what???? If you are still not sure what I am talking about, that generally means you probably didn’t fight over a retirement plan in a divorce, the division of which required a QDRO. Good for you!

In short summary (THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE): You get a divorce. You obtain a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (Decree of Divorce). This Decree is the judicial order which legally breaks the bonds of matrimony between the parties, addresses custody of the children, sets out the terms of child support, visitation, and divides the marital assets and debts, etc. If a retirement fund was included in the Decree for division it is possible you may need to have a QDRO drafted. The QDRO is a judicial order that gets presented to the company managing the retirement fund, which orders them to divide the retirement between the parties in whatever way the Judge specified (or in whatever way the parties agreed upon in lieu of a Judge making that decision for them).

I haven’t drafted a QDRO in a very long time. In my early years of legal practice I did a lot of divorce work. I intentionally do very little of it now. Divorcing couples, as well as paternity, child support and child custody cases, are a continuous stream of revenue for an attorney practicing in Oklahoma.  It was certainly not my intended area of practice when entering the legal field, but like most, I find my family likes the lights on and food on the table.  I am self-employed. I only eat what I kill. You do what you have to do. Survival of the fittest, so to speak.

Since I haven’t drafted a QDRO in a long time I cannot tell you the legal nuances of the law at this time.  The law is fluid.  It requires constant reviewing and researching. What you knew three years ago, six months ago, yesterday even, might’ve changed. You must check again.

Sorry, folks, I have no desire to dive head first into the QDRO legal research area for the sake of a social media blog. I am fairly certain one can find a continuing legal education (CLE) course (for an exorbitant fee) to ascertain the current state of this law, if need be.

What I can tell you is this:

(1) Yes, you might have “earned” that retirement. Yes, it might have come from an association with “your” employer, but if any amount of that retirement fund was contributed to during your marriage, in Oklahoma at least, it is most likely part of the marital estate and subject to division between the parties in the divorce; and

(2) Before you go to drafting a QDRO and obtaining a Judge’s signature, check with the company managing the retirement fund first. They almost always have very specific language, or a specific document, they require before they will internally process the QDRO and make the division. Don’t waste your time, or your client’s time and money, by attempting to reinvent the wheel. The QDRO will be rejected and you will be very frustrated.

On behalf of my legal colleagues everywhere, these things take time. Please, please exercise a bit more patience while the attorney wraps up the remaining loose ends of the dissolution of your marital relations.

And that is all I’m gonna say about THAT.



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