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When do I Need a QDRO?

When do I Need a QDRO?

In order to ensure that you receive your fair share of retirement benefits in a California divorce, you may be required to fill out a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) as part of your finalized divorce agreement. A QDRO is necessary in order for an outside party to benefit from certain types of retirement accounts, and failure to submit a QDRO could mean leaving thousands of dollars on the table in your divorce. 

 What is a QDRO?

 A qualified domestic relations order is a special court order that requires certain types of retirement plans to split the proceeds of the account in a divorce. This order is a part of the finalized divorce agreement that is submitted to the court, and it is approved by the judge in your divorce case. If your QDRO is not thorough and accurate at the time of approval, you may not be able to go back and get additional retirement assets later so it is important that you have an experienced divorce attorney draft this order in your case.


A QDRO is necessary for certain types of accounts because the spouse of the account holder is considered an “alternate payee.” These types of retirement accounts prohibit payment to an alternate payee or anyone else besides the account holder unless the retirement plan is ordered to do so through the court with the use of a QDRO. The order tells the retirement account to pay some or all of the benefits of the account to the alternate payee. Either the QDRO can specifically define how much of the account goes to the spouse in the divorce or a formula is used to determine the amount payable that does adjust the benefits over time.

What Types of Accounts Fall Under a QDRO?

Only certain types of retirement accounts require the need for a QDRO if they fall under certain federal guidelines and requirements. The following accounts require a QDRO if the spouse of the account holder wishes to receive some or all of the funds in this particular retirement account:

  • 401(k)s
  • 403(b)s
  • 457 plans
  • Thrift plans
  • Profit-sharing plans
  • Money purchase plans
  • Employee stock ownership plans
  • Tax shelter annuities
  • Business/corporate defined benefit or pension plans

Retirement accounts such as an individual retirement account (IRA), deferred annuities, and government retirement plans like military pensions, or state and local retirement plans do not need a QDRO in order for a spouse to receive funds following a divorce. 

Call or Contact Our Office Today

 At Kearney Baker, we understand the critical importance of a QDRO to a California divorce case and have experience drafting and reviewing this type of order for our clients navigating a divorce. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a free consultation of your case and to learn more about qualified domestic relations orders now.



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