A Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO is a special type of court order that directs a retirement plan administrator to disperse benefits in accordance with the terms of your divorce agreement or in accordance with the court’s decision. You need a separate QDRO for every retirement plan you and your ex-spouse share. A QDRO can also collect alimony or child support payments from a pension plan.
If you decide to share military or government benefits (such as US Civil Service retirement benefits or state retirement benefits) with your ex-spouse, you need to use different kinds of court orders for these types of benefits to accomplish what a QDRO does.
QDROs are complicated legal documents, so don’t try to cut corners by drafting one on your own. Hire a qualified attorney to do the job for you because a poorly executed QDRO can jeopardize the tax-deferred status of the benefits and also result in the plan administrator not dispersing the funds in the plan according to your divorce agreement.
If you delay getting a QDRO, you may lose some or all of the benefits you have a right to according to your divorce agreement. Among other reasons, this can happen if your former spouse retires, becomes disabled, or dies before you’ve obtained a QDRO.