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Do I Need a QDRO Divorce?


One of the major categories of assets that are split in any divorce includes retirement accounts and funds. However, not all retirement savings are created equally, and some types of retirement accounts require an additional order, known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), in order to transfer or split the assets in that account. Failure to include a QDRO in a Washington divorce settlement when it is required can have disastrous effects on a spouse’s final divorce settlement, which is why you need an experienced attorney by your side who knows when a QDRO divorce is necessary. To learn more about whether your Spokane divorce needs a qualified domestic relations order, call or contact the the Hodgson Law Office in Spokane today.

What is a QDRO in a Divorce?

A qualified domestic relations order is a court order used to divide or transfer certain types of retirement plans. The spouse whose name is on the account is known as the participant, and the spouse who will receive part or all of the proceeds in the account is known as the alternate payee. A QDRO is sent to the retirement plan administrator upon the finalization of the divorce to give part or all of the proceeds from the participant’s account to the alternate payee. A QDRO can order the administrator to make the transfer of funds while the participant is still alive or award survivorship benefits to the alternate payee for when the participant dies.

When is a QDRO Required?

A QDRO is not required for all types of retirement plans, but it is necessary for all types of retirement accounts that fall under federal ERISA laws. This includes all defined benefit and defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, employee stock ownership plans, thrift plans, deferred compensation plans, and traditional pension plans. A qualified domestic relations order is not required for individual retirement accounts (IRAs), military pensions, and other types of retirement plans that do not fall under ERISA.

What Happens if a QDRO is Not Filed?

Failing to file a QDRO can be devastating to a person’s final divorce settlement in Washington. Typically, a qualified domestic relations order should be filed by the court as soon as the divorce is finalized with the retirement plan administrator to enact. While it is possible to file a QDRO after a divorce is finalized, the process can be time consuming and expensive. In many cases, the spouse seeking the QDRO must reopen their divorce case with the court if it was not filed with the initial settlement. If the plan participant retires before the qualified domestic relations order is filed, it can create other issues because the participant will start receiving their benefits from the plan. If the plan participant dies before the QDRO is issued after a divorce, the former spouse seeking benefits may not receive anything from those accounts.

Talk to Our Office

An experienced Washington divorce attorney knows when a QDRO is required to access certain retirement benefits in a divorce and can help you navigate this difficult process. To learn more, call or contact the Hodgson Law Office in Spokane today.


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Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson and his legal team at Hodgson Law Office provide exceptional, personalized representation in family law and divorce cases. With a commitment to trust, integrity, and vigorous advocacy, Hodgson Law Office offers reliable and compassionate legal assistance for all your family law issues.

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