If you have never been divorced, chances are good that you have never heard of a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Even among divorced Florida residents, not all will need to file QDROs. But those who do need them will be unable to access any of a former spouse’s retirement pension benefits without one.What are QDROs?

These court-approved orders assign some or all of a participating employee’s pension benefits to another person. The alternate payees may only be spouses, former spouses, the plan participant’s children or other dependents.

Why are QDROs issued?

People seek QDROs for three specific purposes — as child support, alimony or as part of the division of marital assets during divorce.

Failing to have an attorney draft and file a QDRO during the property settlement segment of your divorce can result in a delay or denial of the benefits to which you are otherwise entitled.

What qualifies as a QDRO?

In order to qualify as a QDRO, the orders must satisfy the requirements of both the amended Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). To do so, orders must include the following:

  • The plan’s name
  • Names of both the plan participant and the alternate payee(s)
  • Last available addresses for participant and alternate payee
  • Amount of benefits to be paid and how this amount is determined
  • Period when the order is applicable and/or number of payments to be disbursed

It should be noted that many plans have additional requirements that are specific to that plan that also must be included for the order to be qualified. Your attorney can get those specification from the plan’s administrator. They are listed in the rules and procedures for QDROs.

How will I know if I need a QDRO?

If your marriage was brief, or if you were married to somebody who didn’t have pension benefits from any source during your marriage, you don’t need a QDRO. Others should work closely with their Florida family law attorneys to make sure one is filed with the court during the divorce proceedings.

Source: Fidelity, “Frequently Asked Questions,” accessed Oct. 20, 2017