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What happens when one spouse won’t sign a New York QDRO?

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Division Of Pensions

Dividing property is often one of the most challenging aspects of a divorce, as spouses often disagree about what is fair. Those with larger marital estates often have more valuable assets to address, and they may have issues with non-compliance even after the end of their divorce proceedings.

When divorcing couples in New York have to divide retirement accounts, a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is often the best tool for that job. People can split accounts held in the name of one spouse into two separate accounts without triggering any major financial penalties or taxes usually imposed on those removing funds from the account prior to reaching retirement age.

Many things can go wrong with a QDRO during a New York divorce. Sometimes, spouses forget to draft the documents after the divorce and never transfer part of the account. Other times, they fail to present the documents to the plan administrator, which can effectively have the same impact. Occasionally, the issue with a QDRO is that one spouse refuses to sign the document. How can someone who needs to record a QDRO to split an account effectively deal with a non-compliant spouse?

Going back to court may be necessary

Both spouses have a legal obligation to uphold the property division settlement outlined in their New York divorce decree. The property division order includes numerous requirements for each spouse, including the division of the retirement account.

The refusal to sign a QDRO that complies with court requirements might constitute contempt of court. Judges potentially have the authority to punish those who do not comply with court orders, including property division orders handed down as part of a divorce. The spouse unable to move forward with dividing marital assets could take the matter back to the family courts.

A judge could potentially penalize the other spouse for refusing to sign. The penalties for contempt of court could include a fine of up to $1,000 or possibly up to 30 days in county jail. Sometimes, the threat of legal action might motivate the recalcitrant spouse’s lawyer to warn them about the risks of their current conduct. Other times, the courts may actually need to impose a penalty to force someone into compliance.

Knowing how to resolve post-decree property division disputes may benefit those frustrated by the non-compliance of a spouse. Seeking legal guidance is generally a good way to get started.