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What is a QDRO?

If you and your spouse contemplate obtaining an Illinois divorce and one or both of you have significant retirement accounts, you should familiarize yourself with QDROs. As reported in Reuters, QDRO stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, the name of the document that most pension plans require you to have your attorney draft if either you or your spouse wishes to receive post-divorce distributions from the other’s retirement account.

QDROs can be, and usually are, complicated and complex documents. You and your spouse may wish to consider foregoing splitting up your retirement accounts and instead exchanging other marital property to fairly and equitably divide your marital assets between you via your property settlement agreement.

QDRO strategy

Should you discover, however, that your retirement accounts represent a significant portion of your marital assets that no amount of other marital assets can make up for, you should contact your pension plan’s administrator. Ask if (s)he has a model agreement form and, if so, if (s)he can provide you with a copy of it.

Be aware that most pension plans have very specific distribution and other rules to which you must precisely adhere. If you inadvertently fail to follow them in your QDRO, you could find out too late that your property settlement agreement and its incorporated QDRO are worth no more than the paper on which they are written.

For instance, despite what your divorce documents say, you could find that you will stop receiving payments from your ex-spouse’s pension plan if you remarry. Or you could discover that you will receive no payments at all if your ex-spouse dies after your divorce but before you put a proper QDRO in place.

Therefore, even if you obtain a model agreement form to go by, you would do well to send a copy of your drafted QDRO back to the pension plan’s administrator for his or her approval.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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