If you are an attorney, we assist you in preparing the best judgment language to serve your client’s needs, and prepare QDROs and obtain final approval and division efficiently. If you are a party to a divorce or separation, we help you obtain your share of retirement benefits or accounts quickly. We understand this is a difficult process; we keep you informed of the status of your QDRO and strive to make the process fair and understandable.

What is a QDRO?

The term “QDRO” is a legal acronym for a type of court order called a “Qualified Domestic Relations Order.” Typically, these orders are used for dividing retirement accounts after divorce to implement the terms of the divorce judgment.  The QDRO allows the ex-spouse to receive a portion of the other spouse’s retirement account.  QDROs can also be used to collect child support or alimony. 

Why is a QDRO needed?

While the division of marital property upon divorce is generally governed by state family law, an assignment of retirement interest must also comply with federal law, in particular the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the Code).   These statutes protect the interests of former spouses, children or other dependents by imposing special requirements that QDROs must satisfy in the case of a divorce.    

To learn more about QDROS and the rules governing them, look at this link to the Department of Labor’s discussion of QDROs.  https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/qdros.pdf  This material goes over the main requirements QDROs must include to meet federal law, how different types of retirement plans are divided, and the steps are of getting such an order “qualified.”

Who prepares a QDRO?

Family law attorneys will often refer this kind of matter to a specialized QDRO attorney such as Jan Atwill.  QDROs are technical documents best handled by an attorney experienced in preparing these documents and getting them approved by the court and qualified by the retirement plans. It is well worth it to hire such an attorney. The benefits of doing so and gaining protection of your interests far outweigh the potential cost of failing to receive the benefits you deserve. In addition, although retirement plans often have model QDROs, simply following these does not adequately protect your interests as the models often favor both the Plan and the Participant.

What is the process of obtaining a QDRO?

The QDRO attorney drafts the QDRO based on the terms of the divorce judgment, the retirement plan and the additional requirements of the federal statutes cited above. The QDRO is not really even considered a “qualified domestic relations order” until the end of the process when it is deemed “qualified” by the Plan.  During most of the process in Oregon, it is referred to as a Supplemental Judgment or proposed QDRO (pending approval and being qualified by the Plan).

In general, the process proceeds as follows: the proposed order is prepared, the parties give comment, the retirement plan gives comment and eventually it gives pre-approval; a mutually agreed upon document is presented to the court for approval;   once approved and signed by the judge, certified copies of the QDRO are sent back to the Plan for final approval and it is “qualified” as a QDRO.   Only after being qualified by the Plan and given to the financial custodian are the retirement benefits divided, and the ex-spouse receives his or her share. 

Types of retirement accounts that may need a QDRO or similar order to be divided:

These orders are prepared for private and public retirement plans.  Here are just a few examples of some types of retirement accounts needing a domestic relations order:

  • 401(k) plans
  • Defined benefit pension plans and Union pensions
  • Cash balance pension plans
  • Oregon PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) – Tier I, Tier II
  • Oregon PERS – OPSRP (Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan)
  • Oregon PERS IAP (Individual Account Program)
  • FERS – Federal Employee Retirement System
  • Railroad Retirement benefits
  • 403(b)s
  • Profit sharing plans

How is our service unique:

Our flat fee rates for QDRO preparation are competitive and we provide a high level of service for that fee.  We do not run a “mill” and your interests will not be lost or side-lined in a high volume practice. Nor do we avoid client phone calls and communications to reduce attorney time on the file.

Instead, we provide hands-on, individualized attention, and turn around our QDROs more quickly than other attorneys.  We recognize that this is a very important event in your life, and often a highly emotional and stressful time. We hope that by providing you timely, accurate information, by being responsive and respectful, and by protecting your interests and equitable concerns, we can best represent you and do what is just and proper.