How qualified domestic relations orders apply to divorce

Despite its status as among the most valuable divisible assets in a marriage, retirement plans are often an afterthought when Florida couples get divorced. This is because spouses generally separate many years before retirement is on the horizon. Other times, thoughts of a retirement plan are lost amid the many other concerns involved with a divorce.

A qualified domestic relations order is a provision that allows a divorcee to receive a portion of the retirement benefits their ex-spouse earned through contributions toward a retirement plan at work. It is common to draft these agreements while divorce proceedings are ongoing. However, divorcees possess the option to file a QDRO years after the divorce is final.

The spouse earning the benefits is called the participant. The person receiving a portion of their ex-spouse’s benefits is referred to as the alternative payee.

A QDRO is required for the division of the retirement plan to become part of the divorce agreement. The divorce decree may not prove sufficient for this process even if it stipulates a division of the retirement plan.

If the participant retires after a divorce becomes final, the participant will receive all of the money from a retirement plan if no QDRO is on file. A QDRO filed at a later date will only affect benefits from the point of the filing and forward. Alternative payees can also file a QDRO after the death of the participant.

Divorce is usually difficult for both parties. The emotions attached to the process can make it challenging to focus on all the steps necessary to complete during a divorce. Individuals who wish to end a marital union may gain a more favorable outcome if they speak with a divorce attorney early in the process.

FindLaw Network