Monday, May 21, 2012

About Qualified Domestic Retirement Orders

You may be wondering what qualified domestic retirement orders are. Qualified domestic retirement orders, or QDRO, are domestic relations orders that assign the benefits of someone's retirement plan to an alternate payee. In short, a party other than the party named in the retirement plan gains the financial benefit of that plan. The order is made pursuant to that jurisdiction's marital relations law and may concern alimony, child support, or other issues stemming from a marriage. As a result, the alternate payee may only be a current spouse, former spouse, child, or some other dependent of a participant. If the child is a minor, then the QDRO may need to be paid to that child's parent or legal guardian.

Qualified domestic retirement orders need not necessarily be ordered by a court. If a state agency has been granted the proper authority to issue such an order, it may, as long as that authority has been given by the proper governing local statutes. Ultimately, the final authority on determining what is and is not a QDRO, if such a determination is required, is the United States Department of Labor.

Pursuant to ERISA § 206(d)(3)(C)(i)-(iv) and IRC § 414(p)(2)(A)-(D), in order to be properly executed, there are several provisions that a QDRO is required to have regardless of what else is on it. The first requirement is that the QDRO contain the name and last known mailing address of the participant and each alternate payee. The second requirement is that the qualified domestic retirement order contains the name of each plan to which the order applies. The third requirement is that it have the dollar amount or percentage of the benefit that will be paid out to each alternate payee. Finally, the order needs to spell out the number of payments or the time period to which the order applies.

Just as there are certain requirements that qualified domestic retirement orders are required to have, there are also things that it cannot have under any circumstances. First, the order may not require a plan to provide an alternate payee or participant with any type or form of benefit, or any option, not otherwise provided under the plan. Second, it may not require a plan to provide for increased benefits. Third a qualified domestic retirement order may not require a plan to pay benefits to an alternate payee that are required to be paid to another alternate payee under another order previously determined to be a QDRO. Finally, it may not require a plan to pay benefits to an alternate payee in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity for the lives of the alternate payee and his or her subsequent spouse.

Of particular importance to individuals involved in a divorce is that a QDRO may be included as part of a divorce agreement or property settlement, as there is nothing in federal law that would preclude such an act. An order may also be ordered as part of a child support payment obligation.

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