How We Assist Those Working
With An Attorney
This page is designed as a resource for parties to a domestic relations matter who are working with their attorney through the process of dividing retirement assets.
What is a QDRO/DPO?
Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”) and the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”), a participant’s tax-qualified plan sponsored by an employer may not be alienated or assigned except in accordance with a qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”). A QDRO is a court order issued under a state’s domestic relations law that must meet certain requirements, including those under federal law and those as promulgated by a plan administrator.
The benefits issued by Ohio’s five public retirement systems (OPERS, STRS, SERS, OP&F, and OHPRS) are not subject to QDROs as they are exempt from ERISA. However, Ohio law permits a court to issue a division of property order (“DPO”) that allows for a direct payment from a member’s public retirement system benefit to a former spouse. A DPO is distinctly different from a QDRO and has a completely different set of requirements.
Additionally, there are several other benefits that are exempt from ERISA that may be able to be divided as the result of a domestic relations matter. For example, military retired pay, the federal Thrift Savings Plan, and the Federal Employees Retirement System. These federal benefits each have their own rules governing the assignment of benefits to a spouse/former spouse.
For purposes of this page, all of the above orders are collectively referred to as domestic relations orders, or DROs.
Why a Company Like QDRO Partners is Utilized
Many attorneys utilize our services to draft a DRO because of the vast complexities involved in the division of retirement assets. At QDRO Partners, we have extensive experience uncovering the various requirements set forth by various plans and preparing DROs that both satisfy the terms of the decree of divorce and the requirements dictated by a plan administrator.
Payment and necessary documents submitted to QDRO Partners
Many matters require an element of discovery to determine and uncover several pieces of information and documents from the participant’s plan. Those include, but are not limited to, determining the official name of the plan that is at issue and whether there are any specific procedures or requirements for the asset-splitting process. Sometimes this is a same-day process; other times it takes several weeks, or even longer. The more information that is provided to us at the outset, such as the name and contact information for the HR or Benefits specialist at the employer or even the plan’s QDRO Procedures, can greatly expedite this process.
Once the necessary information is obtained from the plan, we are ready to draft. Generally, once we have payment in full, all necessary documents and information, the drafting turnaround time is 2-3 days.
Pre-approval (Optional) – If requested by the attorney, and if permitted by the plan, QDRO Partners will send a draft of the DRO to the plan administrator for a preliminary determination as to whether the draft DRO is sufficient or whether any modifications need to be made. Oftentimes, this process is beneficial because any potential deficiencies with the draft DRO may be addressed before the parties sign, submit the draft to the court, and send a certified copy to the plan. Generally, the process may take anywhere from 15-30 days, but it is sometimes longer.
Draft Order sent to Counsel
The proposed DRO is sent to the requesting attorney(s). From there, QDRO Partners’ scope of work has concluded.
Signature, Filing, and Submission
The DRO will need to be reviewed, signed by parties and counsel, submitted to the judge for signature and filing, and a court-certified copy submitted to the plan administrator for review and approval.
Review Period and Determination
There is no uniform time frame for a plan to review the court-certified DRO and make a final determination as to whether it is approved and qualified. Generally, once they have the court-certified Order in their possession, it is a 2-4 week turnaround. The Order will either be approved or denied; this notification will be mailed to all interested parties.