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QDRO Preparation: You Have The Right To Part Of The Retirement Benefits

If you are contemplating or currently going through a California divorce and your marital assets include retirement plans, you will mostly likely need a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to protect your interest in those assets. Many people navigating the complex process of divorce are unfamiliar with QDROs and why they are necessary to secure the full and fair retirement benefits they are entitled to in divorce. However, failure to submit a QDRO in addition to your final divorce agreement can result in losing thousands of dollars and countless benefits over time.

Even if you aren’t sure you need to file for a QDRO, reach out to us for assistance.

What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

California is a community property state, which means that all marital assets and property acquired by spouses during the course of their marriage must be split equally between them during divorce. In addition to the property most people consider, such as homes, cars, furniture, and checking and savings accounts, community property also includes retirement and pension plans accrued by the spouses during their marriage. While some retirement plans can be easily split between spouses during divorce negotiations, others require the use of a qualified domestic relations order to divide the benefits between the couple after the divorce.

A QDRO is a special court order separate from the finalized divorce agreement that divides certain types of retirement benefits between former spouses. This order provides specific instructions to a retirement plan administrator as to how the benefits should be split between the couple. A QDRO recognizes the existence of an alternate payee who has the right to receive benefits that are payable to the spouse who accrued them.

When do I Need a QDRO?

A QDRO is required for certain types of retirement and pension accounts, while others can be split without the use of this order. It is important to talk to your divorce attorney about the specific types of retirement accounts you and your spouse have to be sure of whether you need a QDRO to split the assets in the divorce. A QDRO is necessary because under federal law, certain types of retirement plans are prohibited from dispensing benefits to anyone other than the plan participant unless ordered to do so to an alternate payee by the court with a qualified domestic relations order.

Retirement and pension accounts that do not require a qualified domestic relations order include Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), deferred annuities, or government retirement plans such as military pensions and federal, state, county, or city retirement plans. Pension and retirement plans that do require the use of a QDRO in a California divorce in order to receive benefits include the following:

  • 401(k)s
  • 403(b)s
  • 457 retirement plans
  • Thrift plans
  • Money purchase plans
  • Employee stock ownership plans
  • Tax-sheltered annuities, and
  • Business or corporate defined benefit or pension plans.

At the Law Offices of Kearney Baker, our experienced California divorce attorneys can immediately recognize retirement accounts that require the use of QDROs and will ensure that you receive all of the benefits you are entitled to in your divorce.

How Much Does a QDRO Cost and How Long Does it Take?

A qualified domestic relations order is separate from a finalized divorce agreement and therefore comes with its own costs when prepared by a knowledgeable divorce attorney. Some less reputable law firms will surprise their clients with this additional expense or charge outrageous fees to draft this additional order for the court, but at the Law Offices of Kearney Baker, we believe in full transparency with our clients.

We charge a flat $900 fee for the drafting and processing of a QDRO for our California divorce clients. Given the complexity of the QDRO filing, there may be circumstances that add to the fee but we promise to be upfront and transparent about any additional costs every step of the way.

Depending on the number of retirement accounts that require a QDRO filing in your divorce, the willingness of both parties to be forthright with their financial information, the complexity of the accounts, and a number of other factors the length of time to draft and submit a qualified domestic relations order can vary from couple to couple filing for divorce. Typically, the entire process for a QDRO takes two to four months to be submitted and approved by the court as an additional filing for your divorce. To learn more about the costs and process of filing a QDRO with the California court, schedule a consultation with our office today.

How an Attorney Can Help

Hiring a divorce attorney with your best interests in mind is critical for the drafting of a qualified domestic relations order in your divorce. Some couples that divorce amicably may trust one side or the other to draft the document or use a standard boilerplate form to fill out the details, but this could result in you losing out on countless benefits you are entitled to from certain retirement accounts. With the state and federal laws governing this type of order and retirement plans changing constantly, you need an attorney with experience in qualified domestic relations orders who understands the nuances in the law and can create a unique order customized to your specific circumstances. At the Law Offices of Kearney Baker, we pride ourselves on our constant communication and attention to detail when it comes to creating qualified domestic relations orders for our Pasadena clients.

Request a Consultation

Having a knowledgeable divorce attorney create a QDRO for your case can mean the difference between a secure financial future in retirement and financial uncertainty as you enter into your golden years. Trust in experienced California divorce attorneys who have helped many other clients throughout the Pasadena area with qualified domestic relations orders and all other aspects of divorce at the Law Offices of Kearney Baker. Call or contact the office today to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled divorce attorneys to discuss your legal needs.

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