Monday, December 29, 2008

What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (Acronym - QDRO and pronounced "Quad-Row") is a Court Order that splits up various types of retirement accounts. Federal law (ERISA) generally does not permit state court judges to require that the person who administers a retirement account (the "Plan Administrator") immediately pay retirement benefits out to a divorcing spouse, even though the accumulated benefits may be community property (in a community property state such as Texas). For this reason, the alternate payee is said to receive the benefits "if, as, and when" the retiree or employee receives the benefits. As a result, the QDRO will assign to an "alternate payee" (who is usually the divorcing spouse) the right to receive all or a portion of retirement plan benefits payable to a "participant" (or the employee). A QDRO can also sometimes be used to collect child support or spousal maintenance.