Unlike a house or shares of stock, both of which can be readily valued and liquidated, a pension or a 401(k) represents a future benefit of undetermined worth. For divorce purposes, it is necessary to estimate the worth of retirement accounts and determine the community property share.A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) is a court order that sets forth the terms for the division of qualified retirement plans between divorcing spouses. Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., understands the nuances of QDROs and other aspects of retirement portfolio division. We handle high-asset and complex divorces throughout the Bay Area.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is necessary to divide 401(k) and 403(b) employee contribution plans and all ERISA-covered pension plans. (IRAs can be divided without a QDRO.) A separate court order is required to divide state-based pension plans, such as CalPERS and CalSTRs, or federal government pensions such as a Thrift Plan or FERS.
A QDRO directs the 401(k) or pension plan administrator to pay the non-employee’s share of money directly to that person once he or she is eligible to receive those benefits. This preempts any confusion, freeing you from reliance on an ex-spouse to directly pay you your share. Commonly, a spouse will participate in a pension plan before the marriage and after the date of separation. It is our responsibility to ensure that the division of retirement benefits is fair and accurate in light of pre- and postmarital participation.
“In all of my dealings with (Debra) she has treated me as an intelligent and equal partner in this endeavor, helped talk through several difficult decisions, and pushed me in the right direction when she knew it was best to take her advice.”
— H.H. (See other client testimonials.)
Dividing Retirement Benefits
Securing a QDRO is a critical step in the divorce process. These can be complex documents, which must comply with numerous technical rules and must be approved by the plan administrator. Our attorneys are well-versed in preparing QDROs and ensuring that our clients receive their entitled benefits and distributions years after the divorce.
To speak with our San Francisco QDRO lawyers about dividing the assets in your California divorce, please contact us online or call us at 415.834.1120.