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Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order(QDRO) is a legal document that proves that a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependents on an employee will be given a certain amount of the account owner’s retirement plan assets. It is frequently seen in a divorce agreement.

What Does a QDRO Do?


The QDRO gives the participant’s spouse a percentage of the participant’s contract investment, with the numerator being the present value of the spouse’s benefits and the denominator being the present value of all participant benefits.

After the distribution, the former spouse is accountable for any taxes that are owed. Alternatively, the former spouse can roll over the assets acquired via a QDRO in the same way that an employee can roll over a distribution into another retirement account. A QDRO payout paid to a dependent, such as a kid, is, on the other hand, taxed to the plan’s participant.

If there is no QDRO in place and the account holder transfers retirement plan assets to the former spouse, the account holder is responsible for the taxes on the assets transferred.

QDRO Requirements:

The QDRO must include particular information, such as the names and mailing addresses of the participant and alternate payee, as well as the amount or percentage of benefits to be paid to the2 alternate payee.

Retirement benefits from several retirement benefit plans might be subject to a QDRO as long as the benefits assigned to the former spouse are explicitly stated. A QDRO’s provisions are not standardized and will vary depending on the retirement plan type and the order’s goals.

Limitations of a QDRO:

Specific aspects in a QDRO are prohibited under rules enforced by the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the United States Department of Labor. A court order cannot compel a retirement plan to pay any benefit amount or option that the plan does not offer. Furthermore, the QDRO cannot order the retirement plan to provide additional benefits based on actuarial value.

Benefits from a plan cannot be required for an alternate payee if such benefits have already been allocated to another alternate payee under a previous QDRO ruling. In the case of subsequent divorces and QDROs, for example, the earliest takes precedence for the predetermined benefit amount.

Survivor Benefits: Furthermore, the order cannot force the plan to pay the alternate payee in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity (QJSA) throughout the alternate payee’s and subsequent spouse’s lives.

A former spouse may be eligible for surviving spousal benefits under a QDRO. Benefits assigned to an alternate payee through a QDRO are not available as survivor benefits under the retirement plan to a subsequent spouse.

Special Considerations:

A QDRO can also be used for a relationship other than a former marriage in some instances. Dependents may also be eligible for the benefits ordered. The alternate payee is a minor or has been proven to be legally incapable in such cases. The benefits plan may be required by the order to make payment to a person who has legal responsibility for the payee. This can involve both a guardian and a trustee who acts as the individual’s agent.

If a QDRO is a qualified domestic relations order, it will be determined by the plan administrator who oversees the retirement benefits that are subject to the order. Plan administrators are then accountable for ensuring that their responsibilities on behalf of plan members and beneficiaries are met.

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