What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?


A Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO for short, is a unique court order that is commonly used to split a 401(k), 403(b), pension plan, or some other “qualified plan” as defined by federal law. The Department of Labor defines a QDRO as an order that creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee’s right to receive, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive, all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a retirement plan, and that includes certain information and meets certain other requirements. The participant is the person who owns the plan and the alternate payee is the party who is granted the right to receive a portion of the plan.

In Minnesota, a QDRO is generally a separate court order that follows the court order divorcing the parties. Here is an example: Wife has a 401(k) retirement plan through her employer which has $100,000 in the account and Husband is awarded 50% of wife’s account in the parties divorce decree. The divorce decree will specify that Husband is awarded 50% of Wife’s account, but this is not all that is needed. Once their divorce is done, a separate QDRO must be completed and signed by the court specifying the division of the 401(k) account. In this example, Wife is the “Participant” and Husband is the “Alternate Payee.”

As with most legal documents, details are incredibly important in properly drafting the final divorce order and the separate QDRO. Details such as marital portions, valuation dates, division of gains or losses on the account, etc. are necessary, but overlooked, resulting in errors and deficiencies in the court orders.

If you or your spouse have retirement plans and are contemplating a divorce, or are already in the process, contact the experienced family law and divorce lawyers at the Bolt Law Firm to discuss your legal rights and options regarding these assets. We are committed to helping you through every step of the challenging divorce process to address your concerns and achieve your goals as efficiently as possible. If you have questions, or wish to set up a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys, call us at (763) 292-2102