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When should a QDRO be prepped and signed?

On Behalf of | Sep 5, 2014 | Property Division

Ohio couples going through a divorce may be of the impression that the process, as difficult as it may be emotionally, is over once the final decree is signed. Get that document inked and both parties can wipe their hands and move on.

Unfortunately, legal processes typically aren’t that simple. Anyone who has gone through the process of obtaining a mortgage knows that there are myriad bits of paperwork that need to be signed. The same is true in divorce. And these days, one of the more significant documents in any divorce may be a QDRO as part of the plan for the division of retirement assets

Formally, this is known as a qualified domestic relations order. Some refer to it as a quad-row. As described by the U.S. Department of Labor website, a QDRO is an order that establishes that someone other than the holder of the retirement plan has a claim on the benefits. The plan might involve a pension, but more likely, these days, it involves funds in a 401(k).  

And it should come as no surprise that in such situations, all the different parties need to sign off on the QDRO to make sure that everyone’s on the same page and distribution occurs smoothly. That means getting signatures from the judge and the plan’s administrator.

All this can beg the question, when, in the context of a divorce, should the QDRO be prepared and signatures obtained? Does it have to be done before the final decree is issued? Should it be done after?

Technically, the QDRO is separate from the divorce decree and so timing may not be crucial. But there may be good reason to get things taken care of ahead of the final settlement. For example, it tends to be easier to get all the paperwork prepared ahead of time so that all the necessary documents can be signed at one sitting.

Another reason to get things done sooner rather than later is that if the divorce is finalized before the QDRO is completed, and the paying spouse then dies, it may create more hurdles that could threaten distribution to the recipient.