If you’re working through a divorce, you might wonder what your options are for your retirement plan – can you keep all of it, or do you have to share some of the proceeds with your spouse?
A qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO, defines how the benefits are divided or transferred. We’ll explain what a QDRO is, whether you and your spouse can draft your own, and the process of filing a QDRO in the state of Washington.
How to Get a QDRO Form
Although you can get a QDRO form from almost anywhere on the internet, you’ll need help from an expert to complete it. The family lawyer you hire to deal with your divorce matters should also help you file a QDRO.
A QDRO form spells out how each spouse’s retirement benefits will be divided or transferred.
When getting your QDRO form, you’ll need to go through several steps:
- Obtain information about the retirement plan and the administrators responsible for the benefits you’re dividing before you start drafting it. Once that’s done, you must draw up a divorce agreement to determine how much pension or retirement you’re splitting between you and your spouse. Keep in mind that the court must render a judgment before you can proceed.
- Get information about your former partner and marriage. This information includes their full name, address, social security number, marriage date, separation date, and the final divorce judgment date.
In addition, you’ll need the retirement plan’s name and the plan administrator’s contact information. You can usually get these details from your spouse’s employer.
Policies and procedures for QDROs are typically outlined in the information package each plan administrator has available.
- Create the QDRO. After you have the necessary details, it’s time to prepare the stipulated QDRO, which dictates the retirement plan division. Follow the plan administrator’s procedures when drafting it.
- Get your former spouse’s approval. Once the QDRO is drafted, your former spouse must approve it. As long as it follows the divorce decree’s provisions, the former spouse or lawyer should agree. If the other spouse behaves irrationally or becomes intractable, you can skip this step. You don’t need your ex-spouse’s signature right now.
- Get the approval of the plan administrator. Have your plan administrator approve the QDRO. They may request revisions. Note that they don’t pre-approve pension arrangements for federal and military employees. Otherwise, the plan administrator’s pre-approval of the QDRO ensures the judge’s approval.
- Verify the requirements with your plan administrator. All parties must agree to the QDRO. When your plan administrator approves it, both parties must sign it.
There are times when a spouse refuses to sign a QDRO. Don’t worry if that happens. It is possible to request an order requiring the court clerk to sign for another party by filing a motion with the court.
- Get the judge’s approval. You can submit your original QDRO to the court after your plan administrator has approved your QDRO and everyone has signed it. You must submit the QDRO to the court responsible for the divorce. The order is filed with the court and entered into the records.
- The plan administrator must receive a copy of the documents. Now it’s time to forward a certified copy for the plan administrator’s records. The plan may require additional documents, such as a personal information supplement for each party; the court does not receive this information.
Plan administrators usually handle signed QDROs reasonably quickly if you have obtained pre-approval. As soon as your account is separated, the plan administrator creates an alternate payee account.
But what if one party needs cash now? In place of rolling the fund over, if one of the parties withdraws from the ex-spouse’s retirement plan, 20 percent of the amount will be withheld for federal income tax purposes. The total amount received by the party is considered income in this case. When they file their taxes the following year, they can claim the amount withheld by the retirement plan.
How Do I File a QDRO Form?
Consult an attorney to file a QDRO Form. If you’re filing the QDRO without an attorney, you can take the following steps to file a QDRO form:
- Send the final proposed order to the appropriate clerk to be filed and forwarded to the judge for their signature, notify your ex-spouse or their attorney, and then receive the signed order back from the court.
- Send the signed order to the appropriate clerk, usually a county clerk, to be filed in your case, and receive the order back from the clerk.
- Resubmit the order that you filed, sign the order to the clerk with a request for a certified copy to be sent back to you, again on notice to all parties.
That’s what you need to know about how to get a QDRO form, how to file it, and how to get a QDRO form returned fast. Once you and your attorney or plan administrator have filled out the QDRO form and submitted it to the court, your plan administrator will split up your retirement account according to the instructions in the QDRO form.
Divorce can be a long and daunting process, but at least dividing your retirement assets doesn’t have to be a struggle.