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Do I need to get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

If you are going through the divorce process here in Phoenix, at some point you might require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. But what exactly is that?

Your family law attorney may call it a QDRO (pronounced "kwa-dro"), as that is how it is commonly referred. Its function is to officially apportion the retirement benefits of one or both divorcing spouses.

Who gets the benefits?

That depends, and this is an issue that your divorce attorney may need to hash out with opposing counsel. The order, signed by and filed with the court, specifies who will receive all or any retirement benefits of either spouse. Benefits can be assigned to the retirement plan participant, the ex-spouse, children or an alternate payee who is a dependent.

Why are QDROS drawn up?

QDROs are used to divide community property assets when couples separate or divorce, as alimony payments and also as child support. A simple divorce judgment is insufficient for plan administrators of pension funds to disburse benefits, so this document is very important when either spouse has a retirement benefit account.

What information should my QDRO contain?

QDROs are under the auspices of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as well as the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. As such, at minimum, QDROs must contain all of the following:

-- The plan's name

-- The participant's name, as well as that person's last mailing address known

-- Name and address for the individual named as alternate payee

-- Amount to be dispersed

-- How that amount is determined

-- Length of time benefits are paid or time period the order is applicable

The above are in no means inclusive of all of the requirements of your particular QDRO. Plans may have additional requirements specific to that pension fund. Attorneys should contact the plan administrators for each plan -- long-term spouses may qualify for more than one set of retirement benefits -- to ensure all of the pertinent information is included.

Failing to include all relevant elements of a plan automatically disqualifies the document as a QDRO, and no benefits will be dispersed.

It's important to get it right

As you probably can tell, it is vital that your Phoenix family law attorney makes sure that your QDRO is done right to avoid a denial or delay of benefits otherwise owed to you. Make sure that you receive all of the benefits that you are entitled to under the state of Arizona's liberal community property laws.

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