A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a very valuable tool to use if you are getting divorced and your partner has a pension or a retirement plan. Even though they may not be retired yet, they earned a portion of that plan during your marriage, and that makes it a marital asset. People often forget this because it does not feel like an asset that they already possess, but it is — even if it won’t technically come into use for a decade or more.

In any case, the QDRO sets up a way to divide the plan. The percentage that you are entitled to automatically goes to you so that you do not lose this valuable asset. This is perhaps most important for those who were counting on the plan to retire and find that divorce would suddenly leave them with no alternatives.

But what if you already got divorced and you forgot to do this or your lawyer never helped you file the paperwork. Can you still get a QDRO?

You can. Technically, you can do it years later. If you forgot about it in the chaos of getting divorced or if this is the first you’re hearing of it, do not assume you have no options. You can still get the paperwork in place so that the proper amount of money goes to you.

Is it better to do it while getting divorced, rather than five years later? Of course. This makes the process more likely to go smoothly. But it’s not your only option, so make sure you know what steps to take.