A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (or QDRO, pronounced “qua-dro”), is a judicial order in the United States, entered as part of a property division in a divorce which divides a retirement plan or pension plan by recognizing joint marital ownership interests in the plan, specifically the former spouse’s interest in that spouse’s share of the asset.
QDROs apply only to employee benefit or pension plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the American federal law governing private sector pensions. Domestic Relations Orders or DRO’s divide military retirement pay and Federal civil service retirement plans. A QDRO or DRO may provide for marital or community property division between the plan participant (the employee or former employee) and the alternate payee (the spouse of the employee or former employee). IRA’s, ROTH IRA’s and SEP IRA’s are not subject to ERISA and therefore are not divided typically with a QDRO but rather paperwork from the issuing company.
QDROs and DROs must first be issued by a State-level domestic relations court. The QDRO or DRO is a separate document in addition to your divorce decree. It must be signed by both parties in the divorce as well as their respective attorney’s and the court. Once it is signed by all parties, the QDRO or DRO then needs to be sent to the company’s plan administrator. It must meet the standards of the plan to which it applies. Each company or issuing entity will have their own wording for QDROs and DROs.
Generally, you must have a separate QDRO or DRO for each plan. Each retirement plan is governed by different rules depending on the plan type (i.e. 401(k), Pension Plan, 403(b)). Each QDRO or DRO must be tailored to the requirements of each plan.
The timeline for receiving your awarded funds from a QDRO or DRO is approximately 90 days. We highly encourage you to request the QDRO/DRO process begin as soon as you have completed the mediation process or a decision on the estate has been determined. It is common for a QDRO/DRO to be sent for pre-approval. This is where he QDRO/DRO is completed but not signed, instead it completed with the plan participants information and the divorce decision as far as division is sent to the administrator for pre-approval. This process takes approximately 30 days. Once pre-approval is completed, you know your QDRO/DRO will be approved. We then encourage you to have the QDRO/DRO submitted in conjunction with your divorce decree. This tends to speed up the process and prevents the frustrating delays we have seen multiple times.
If you are in the midst of or finishing up divorce negotiations, we encourage you to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your situation. We can potentially help you avoid costly delays and frustrations in the QDRO process.
Divorce can really mess with your mind. I know because I’ve been there. It is like my brain was removed from my head and placed beside me for about a year. (It does come back!) The intelligent together woman that I once was turned into an emotional, brain-fogged, unorganized basket case. I tried very hard to keep it together, but I was not at my best. I felt paralyzed and incapable of coherent thought when I very much just wanted to focus and plan for my future with my young child. Divorce financial planning in Texas would have been the solution.
What’s a person to do? First things first.
1. Know the Basic Finances of the Home
What’s your role when it comes to the family finances? Do you handle the bill paying? Are you “in the loop” on all your bank accounts or are you in the dark? What about investment accounts or retirement plans? Do you have any? If you’re in the dark, you need someone to help you turn the lights on – and FAST! This is where a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or CDFA® practitioner can really help.
Has your spouse blocked you from your financial life? If so, a CDFA® may help you shed light on the situation. A good CDFA® can walk through your taxes and identify brokerage and bank accounts. He or she can also walk through any financial statements you have and help you identify where assets may be hidden. A Master Analyst in Financial Forensics or MAFF® a different type of professional who can help you forensically trace bank accounts or brokerage accounts to look for hidden assets. There is help available – you do not have to stay in the dark. One client brought in a box of papers from years of stuffing them in drawers and closets. We found 3 rent houses and $100,000 in CD money!
If you and your spouse are cooperative, ask for statements on all your asset accounts and your most recent tax returns so you can find a CDFA® practitioner to help you out with divorce financial planning in Texas and bring you up to speed. A CDFA® professional is specially trained in the financial aspects of divorce and will be your best friend in this process!
2. Think About Your Future
This part will be hard but start thinking about what the next phase of your life looks like. Unfortunately, this has to happen at the same time that you are grieving what you THOUGHT the next phase was going to look like. But if you allow yourself some space, it can actually be healing and fun. You now have the chance to start over again.
What did you used to dream of doing that got lost while you were married? Is it time to go back to school? Maybe a cool downtown loft condo should replace that huge family home that you had to keep clean. Whatever you dream of, you will need your budget and financial picture top of mind. That way, if your dreams outsize your wallet, you know you have some serious planning to do!
3. Build A Single Identity for Yourself
Often through marriage all the credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc. are in the names of both spouses. All of those accounts will have to be closed or converted. Immediately open a checking and savings account in your own name to begin the process of establishing your own financial identity. Be sure to put some things in place while you’re still married because after the marriage is over, your credit picture may not be nearly as strong. Next, find a good rewards credit card to apply for in your name alone so that you will be assured of having access to credit after the divorce and maybe even during if legal fees are necessary.
These steps may seem small but they are valuable first steps to get you thinking financially and looking out for your future. You can get through this, and a little divorce financial planning in Texas help from a CDFA® friend is a great place to start.
We have 5 children in our blended family and now the first of them is about to hit his 20’s and looking for Mrs. Right, I’m concerned!!! Millennials and Generation Z young adults could be the first generations of children-of-divorce. By 1983, all but 2 states had adopted no-fault divorce laws and over the next decades, the divorce rate rose to our now norm of about 50%. That resulted in many of those kids watching their parents’ divorce and suffering the emotional consequences that often accompany that. When you really consider the early years, there were few resources available to couples and families on how to go through the process in the most humane way. But let’s face it, even with the resources today, there are still plenty of ugly divorce tales out there.
So, for a lot of these kids, as they grow past their 20’s and into their 30’s, a very interesting trend is persisting. The divorce rate, the number of divorces per marriages, continues to rise but the actual number of divorces each year is dropping steadily. Why is this? Because young people are not getting married! They are choosing instead to be in serially monogamous, long-term relationships, often including children and joint home purchases, but forgoing the tradition of a recognized marriage. I understand. They don’t want to go through what their parents went through so the heck with marriage! However, the result of this when life doesn’t go as planned can be disastrous. No burden of marriage also means no protections of marriage.
Consider this: Josh and Beth have been together 4 years and decide to have children. They agree that Beth will stay home and care for the kids while Josh finishes his degree and works nights to support the family. Once he’s done and gainfully employed, the kids will be a little older and Beth will then go back to school and finish her degree.
Well, life happens, and three years into this fabulous plan, Josh is about to graduate and drops the bombshell on Beth that he’s been having an affair with a fellow student. He’s in love and just can’t go on like this. He’ll be a good dad to their children but he’s leaving her. (Didn’t see it coming, did you?) Oh, and by the way, last year they bought a home but since Beth had no income, they didn’t want her low credit score to drag down their interest rate, so the house and mortgage are in Josh’s name.
So, what’s Beth entitled to? She’s like entitled to child support. The house was purchased by Josh and now that Josh is about to finish school and have a great job he can move on with his life in house. But they had plans! They had an agreement and she sacrificed her education to pay for his! Too bad. Had they been married, she could have been entitled to half the equity in the home, possible reimbursement for half of his education expenses and a portion of anything they acquired during the marriage. But boy, isn’t she lucky that she doesn’t have to go through a divorce? Josh kicked her out a week later and she and the kids had to move home with her parents.
Now, Texas does recognize common law marriage, but you will likely need an attorney to determine if you are married or not. What does that mean for Josh and Beth? It means Beth hires an attorney to prove they were married while Josh hires an attorney to prove they were not – after they fight about being married or not they then go on to fight over the house, the debt, the kids and anything else they own. What does that sound like? It sounds like the litigated divorce the parties set out to avoid in the beginning by not legally saying “I Do”.
This is SO REAL!! We highly encourage young people who wish to cohabitate take the time to visit an attorney to walk through the legal ramifications of this prior to moving in together. A simple Cohabitation Agreement can change many things. There are free ones available all over the internet or you can visit a family law attorney for more specific advice pertaining to your set of facts. Never move in with someone without one! It could end up saving you your entire financial life.