If you are contemplating filing for divorce in Maryland, you should consider how doing so can affect your retirement benefits. A qualified domestic relations order, otherwise known as a QDRO, is the legal term for a special type of court order used to divide retirement plans.
When do you need a QDRO?
You will need a QDRO if your final divorce decree includes the division of retirement benefits. In some cases, couples may agree not to divide retirement funds, especially when the parties were not married for a long time, and the marital portion of retirement benefits is small.
In some cases, the divorce decree itself contains sufficient language for a retirement plan to be divided, but most of the time, a separate document must be filed.
Why do you need a QDRO?
A qualified domestic relations order is different than a regular domestic relations order because it must be accepted by the plan that is subject to division. Federal law requires a QDRO for the division of most retirement plans.
When can a QDRO be filed?
A QDRO can be filed immediately after the divorce is finalized. Sometimes, it can be filed months or years later. If this was not done at the time of your divorce, you may still be able to request your share of your former spouse’s retirement benefits.
How is a QDRO filed?
The first step to obtaining a QDRO generally is to contact the retirement plan administrator. This can be a straightforward process if your spouse has been forthcoming about providing all the required information. Once the appropriate paperwork has been completed, it must be submitted to the court for approval.
It is usually best to contact a divorce attorney about obtaining a QDRO because navigating the process can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the court’s requirements. If your spouse has attempted to conceal information about his or her retirement benefits, a lawyer may also file a motion with the court. Understanding your rights during a divorce can make the process far easier.