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What is a QDRO?

Divorce can be complicated and stressful. When they have made the decision to end your marriage, couples must come to an agreement as to the distribution of their assets and property. Wisconsin is considered a community property state. This means that any assets or wealth that is accumulated during the marriage is community property and belongs to both parties. The law can be complex, so it is helpful to seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney. One of the complications is the distribution of a couple’s retirement accounts.

A QDRO is a “qualified domestic relations order” and it is a necessity in divorces in which either or both parties have retirement accounts in place. A QDRO is a legal court order that assigns the rights to receive part or all of your retirement benefits. It can also be used for alimony and child support payments. A QDRO should be part of your divorce order and it is in your best interest to have one in place.

Do I Need a QDRO?

If you have a retirement plan, you must have a QDRO in order to ensure that your retirement is properly distributed. When you request your retirement funds, the company will require you to provide a QDRO before they will release funds if you are divorced. Without a QDRO, your retirement benefits might be distributed incorrectly. The QDRO specifies exactly how the distribution is to take place.

There are specific legal requirements and points that the QDRO must address. In addition, there are additional points that may also be appropriate for inclusion. Since everyone’s plans are different, it is best to have a qualified attorney draft the QDRO. There are two main types of QDROs including for public and private entities. For example, a QDRO will be different when it pertains to a government employee or a member of the military. Government and military retirement plans have specific QDRO requirements in place that you must address.

Legal Assistance with a QDRO

A QDRO can be extremely complicated and you must follow Wisconsin law. Therefore, it is beneficial to get help from an attorney. You may have been paying into your retirement before you got married and some of the funds in the account are not community property. You may have been paying into the fund at a different rate at different times throughout your career, and you might have worked at several companies. There can be much confusion around retirement account distribution and calculation. You need to make sure that you protect the money that is rightfully yours. The fund likely accumulated interest at varying rates throughout the years. It is necessary to sort through the information and compute the amount of money that you and your spouse should receive as part of the divorce settlement distribution. In some cases, couples who both have retirement accounts may elect to keep their funds entirely separate. Your attorney will review the situation and provide you with options in drafting a fair QDRO. To learn more about QDROs and the divorce process, contact Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. for a case consultation.

Published December 28, 2019
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