If you or your soon-to-be ex-spouse has retirement accounts, you likely need to divide them as part of your divorce. For plans that fall under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, obtaining a qualified domestic relations order is essential.
A QDRO is a court order that tells the retirement plan’s administrator what to do with funds in the account. In New Jersey, obtaining a QDRO usually has four steps.
1. Negotiating the terms of the QDRO
Dividing funds in a retirement account requires tackling potentially complex legal and financial issues. Your and your spouse’s attorneys work to identify these issues and negotiate the terms of the QDRO.
2. Drafting the proposed order
Once both sides agree to the terms of the QDRO, an attorney typically writes a proposed order that includes all legally required elements. Then, he or she asks opposing counsel to review the draft for accuracy and completeness.
3. Seeking judicial approval
For a QDRO to be legally valid, a judge must sign off on it. The judge in your case is apt to do this as part of your divorce decree. Nevertheless, if the judge finds some fault with the proposed QDRO, he or she may ask you and your spouse to renegotiate.
4. Submitting the QDRO
When your divorce concludes, you must notify the retirement plan administrator of the QDRO. If the QDRO applies to more than one retirement account, you probably need to notify every interested administrator.
After obtaining and submitting your QDRO, you can rely on the plan administrator to distribute retirement funds pursuant to the language of the order.