It is important to work with a family attorney who understands the ins and outs of a qualified domestic relations order but you may also wish to engage with a specialist who has experience in drafting and evaluating these types of materials as well. As an individual you should also be concerned about how the qualified domestic relations order is put together and submitted to the plan administrator and judge. The division of retirement assets can have a significant impact on the remainder of your life, which is why it is so important to make sure that everything is handled appropriately. First of all, make sure that a qualified domestic relations order is available. The majority of plans provided by private employers do fall under the ERISA requirements that mandate the use of a qualified domestic relations order. This is not always the case however, as it relates to government plans and military plans. Make sure you understand whether division as a result of a divorce is available in your plan. The easiest way to do this is to contact the plan administrator. In the event that the plan does not belong to you, you may need to reach out to your spouse to ask for assistance with this. This can also be conducted during the discovery portion of your case by working with your family attorney. Understanding the value of all the plans potentially divisible and divorce is essential so that you can compare the documents and align everything as necessary. Do not hesitate to get the right advice about this situation because there is simply too much on the line.
Additionally, make sure you know upfront what the qualified domestic relations order will cost. Although this might be viewed as relatively a simple document in the event that it only includes a defined contribution plan maintained by a big employer in your area, you may also need to engage with the qualified domestic relations order specialist to assist you. This is because there are many complex factors that go into drafting and submitting qualified domestic relations orders. Although a qualified domestic relations order can be expensive, having it done properly the first time impacts your future significantly and you should not hesitate to bring in individuals who are committed to protecting your interests as best as possible. This may include both you family law attorney as well as a QDRO specialist. Although you and your spouse may agree to split everything down the middle, you should not count on a verbal agreement as enough to support this actually happening. You need to have as much in writing as possible which is why the qualified domestic relations order is important in the first place. Your divorce decree alone is not enough to mandate that any retirement plans be divided between you and your former spouse.
Any plans that are subject to regulation by ERISA need to have a qualified domestic relations order linked to them. So, you should ensure that a QDRO has been submitted for each of these individual plans. Do not trust your spouse’s words because he or she could pass away or withdraw the funds before you are eligible to receive them. Plan administrators are also not responsible for passing out benefits in a retirement plan if a qualified domestic relations order does not specify that payments are to be made to someone else. Your QDRO should detail information such as when you are entitled to the benefits, the amount of money you are entitled to and any other necessary details such as your contact information. Ensuring that his document is updated properly and that a copy and version for each individual plan has been submitted goes a long way towards reducing your anxiety and concerns. Do not hesitate to get this done properly the first time so that you can have peace mind about gaining access to these retirement benefits down the road. With so much on the line and with retirement assets frequently being one of the biggest types of assets divided in a divorce, you need the comfort of knowing that things have been handled properly the first time.