Serving Rome, New York residents with legal issues

Why a QDRO is a very valuable tool during divorce

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2023 | Division Of Pensions

A QDRO, which stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, is a legal document that is typically used in the context of divorce or separation to divide employment-sponsored retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and pension plans, between divorcing parties. It is a specialized court order that outlines how retirement plan assets will be distributed to one spouse as part of a divorce settlement without incurring penalties or tax consequences.

A QDRO is often necessary because retirement accounts are subject to specific federal laws and regulations, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). These laws require that retirement plan assets be distributed only to the account holder, unless a valid QDRO is in place. A QDRO serves as a mechanism to ensure that the non-account holder spouse receives their rightful share of the retirement benefits as determined by their divorce settlement.

Does it split the financial assets in half?

Technically, it is possible for a QDRO to split the value of a retirement plan or pension plan in half. But this is not what it automatically does, and there are many situations in which a different percentage may be used.

As a general rule, a QDRO is supposed to consider how much the value of that plan increased while two people were married. If they were married for the entire time that the plan was earned and right up until it paid out, 50% may go to each party. But it is likely that the person who is earning the retirement plan may have earned some of it prior to the marriage and may earn more of that value after the marriage. They do not have to divide these separate assets in half, but only the marital assets – or the portion of the pension earned during the marriage. This could mean that the account holder gets 70% of the total, for instance, while the other person gets 30%. Every situation is unique and the specific details have to be considered accordingly.

At the end of the day, a QDRO is a crucial legal tool used during divorce proceedings to divide retirement assets equitably between spouses while adhering to federal laws and regulations governing retirement accounts. If questions or concerns arise about this subject, spouses who are considering divorce can seek legal guidance at any time.