Court Ordered Distributions: QDROs (Qualified Domestic Relations Orders)
In order to approve the distribution of account assets to an “alternate payee” (someone other the participant, usually an ex-spouse), the retirement Plan Administrator must receive a Domestic Relations Order. This is a legal document that specifically addresses the distribution that is to take place from a retirement account to an alternate payee. The plan cannot act on a division of assets described in a divorce decree: the division of assets in a retirement account must be addressed in a separate Domestic Relations Order filed with the court.
CCC does not have a specific model document for DROs: we review a wide range of formats. All DROs must contain the following information:
The plan name (this is usually the employer associated with the account to be divided followed by the type of plan, for example ABC Schools 403(b) Plan) and address of the plan (again, this is the address of the employer associated with the account to be divided)
The participant name and address
The alternate payee name and address
The account held under the plan, including the vendor name and the account number(s). Descriptions of the division should include a valuation or division date. The specific description concerning how the account is to be distributed can vary widely: some use percentages of account values, some use an exact dollar figure while other use share numbers. The key is that the division described in the QDRO must be acceptable to the releasing vendor and consistent with descriptions that may be used to complete distribution forms required by the vendor
Other information as described under IRC 414(p), available here.
The DOL website hosts a IRS Sample QDRO that may be helpful, it is available here.
CCC welcomes attorneys that are drafting a Domestic Relations Orders concerning a participant in one of our full service plans to contact CCC prior to filing the order with the court, please click here for our contact information. CCC can review a draft copy and provide feedback to make sure the appropriate information is contained in the document prior to filing a final copy with the court. Vendors vary greatly in their policies concerning how the distribution must be described (some in a specific dollar amount, some in a specific number of shares, others in a percentage of an account as of a named valuation date): CCC will research the needs of the Vendor named in the draft of the order and provide that information to be included in the final version of the Domestic Relations Orders that is to be filed with the court.
A DRO a legal order: in order to act upon this order and approve the distribution outlined in the document CCC must receive a court filled certified copy of the Domestic Relations Order to review and, if appropriate, authorize the ordered distribution and write a letter to the vendor verifying the QDRO meets the plan's criteria. If mulitple vendors are named in the QDRO, CCC must receive a certified copy of the QDRO for each vendor involved. Once CCC has received the certified copies of the documents we will communicate and provide documents to the QDRO parties concerning any additional action (such as the completion of required forms) that may be required to facilitate the ordered distribution contained in the QDRO. The involved attorney(s) will be provided with copies of the communications to the QDRO parties.