When a couple divorces with retirement assets, a special order is actually needed to divide those assets known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO. Every employer’s plan is actually different in addition to has distinct in addition to specific requirements for the QDRO.
These specifics have given rise to the cottage industry of the QDRO speacialist: a lawyer that will is actually hired at the time of entry of the judgment of divorce for the sole purpose of drafting the QDRO.
Last month, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided Williams v Estate of Williams, a case involving a very old divorce judgment that will affected the retirement benefits of a deceased Ford Motor Company employee. The Wayne County Family Court attempted to go back over a decade into the past to correct what This kind of perceived as a mistake within the division of the employee’s pension, however the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.
When the employee, the participant, finally retired after 39-years at Ford, the alternate payee on the plan, i.e. the ex-wife, began receiving her portion of the pension. The ex-wife was designated as the “surviving spouse” within the QDRO, in addition to began receiving the entire amount of the pension despite the fact she never intended on that will result.
The judgment in addition to subsequently entered QDRO awarded 100% of the decedent’s pension to his ex-wife after the participant’s death. If the QDRO had been drafted in accord with the default judgment, the alternate payee’s share should have been the same as This kind of was when the participant first entered into “pay status” upon his retirement.
The case is actually instructive on several fronts:
- The parties to a divorce should hire a specialist to draft any necessary QDROs;
- Be sure that will the language of the QDRO in addition to the judgment of divorce are consistent;
- If the plan administrator corresponds to the parties through the specialist, do not ignore This kind of correspondence as This kind of could spell doom years, even decades later;
- Do not attempt to draft a “do-This kind of-yourself” QDRO; in addition to
- Be careful not to “incorporate” the QDRO into the judgment itself because This kind of will limit your options to correct the problem years later, which is actually what happened within the Williams case.
Often, when a divorce proceeding is actually grinding down toward a settlement, the parties take their focus off the specific language of a QDRO. This kind of is actually most often a mistake, as the division of the retirement assets is actually one of the most important aspects of the divorce.
Take care to follow-through with your attorney to accomplish This kind of task.