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Reader's Issues
DRO's & QDRO's

READER ISSUE: WHAT IS A QDRO?

This letter is from "Cathie" in New York who has agreed to share this issue with our readers.

I was divorced about two years ago. My husband obtained the lawyer and filed for the divorce, I did not hire a lawyer. Everything seemed like it went well. We didn't have a personal property issue, I was awarded an adequate child support allotment, and I was given one half of my ex-husband's retirement.

A friend of mine recently told me that no matter what the divorce settlement stipulated, if I didn't have a QDRO in place when my ex retired, I would not get my portion. What is a QDRO and why didn't the court tell me if I really need one?

This is an excellent question. I personally would like to know the same thing, for I am presently involved in such a situation.

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To answer your question, what is a QDRO? According to the US Department of Labor a QDRO is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order that creates or recognizes the existence of an "alternate payee's" right to receive, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive, all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a pension plan, and that includes certain information and meets certain other requirements.

Do you need a QDRO? I could explain the nightmare I have been dealing with in regards to this issue, but I would much rather offer this..........
Take your Divorce Decree and your marital settlement papers to an attorney and question the attorney as to whether or not it is necessary to have a QDRO drafted. According to everything that I have learned over the past few months of fighting this issue, without a DRO or a QDRO, you can more than likely "kiss your settlement agreement good-bye!" (See LegalZoom's outlook on QDRO's and retirement as community property.)

As to the question concerning why the judge did not inform you: that has been a question floating around my brain since I found myself in the middle of the DRO turmoil. How to handle the issue is of course something I am investigating. Is this a legislative issue, or is it a judicial issue? I suppose this would be an issue to take to the ACLU (The American Civil Liberties Union.) They have excellent resources on Women's Rights and over the past few months I have learned that I am not the only woman with this issue. The New York State Chapter of the ACLU may be the place to begin your questioning.

Of course since you live in New York, you may want to contact your assemblyman, Your senators, or your local Congressman.

It might also be a good idea to start flooding your local newspapers with Letters to the Editor. The more attention you can help bring to the matter, the more apt you are to getting the situation rectified.

While I wish I could be of more assistance in this matter, I do hope that you will take my small piece of advice and seek out the assistance of an attorney.

I have attempted to conduct research in regards to your specific predicament, being QDRO's and Federal/Military Employee Retirement Benefits. I have located information concerning UNIFORMED SERVICES FORMER SPOUSES' "PROTECTION ACT, which applies to your situation. Divorcenet has an interesting article concerning the 1996 Amendment to Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System Statutes Relating to Payments to a Former Spouse Under 10 USC Section 140. The site also offers indication that there are common mistakes made in the division of Military Retirement issues.

The issues of DRO's and QDRO's are important to anyone, male or female, who has an interest in your ex-spouse's retirement. (See article at DivorceSource.) Therefore, we have decided to further the available information regarding the issue. We have looked into Federal Supreme and appellate Court rulings on the subject and have determined that it is extremely important to add links to this page in regards to court rulings.

In the case of Guzman v. Commonwealth Edison Co., the 9th Court of Appeals reversed a lower courts decision to deny the partcipant benefits because a QDRO was not filed until after the participant's death.

Cases utilizing the Guzman v. Commonwealth Edison Co decision.
Hogan v. Raytheon Co Enter search by Category, Hogan as keyword.

In another case; the Trustees of the Directors Guild of America-Producer Pension Benefits Plans v. Tise case, the 9th Circuit held that a qualified domestic relations order issued after a participant's death could be enforced against a plan benefit which would otherwise have been payable to a different beneficiary.

In Arthur C. Hawkins (1996), the 10th Circuit reversed the Tax Court and held that a marital settlement agreement providing that a wife would receive a distribution from her husband's pension plan qualified as a QDRO.

*This information is not meant as a substitute for legal advice, it is meant to simply guide you with the issues presented by divorce and retirement. Always seek the advice and counsel of an attorney on these issues!

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This Page Last Updated 7/6/2002
C 2002 L Munro