Call Today For Your Strategy Session: (303) 990-5308

QDROs Defined


A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is a domestic relations order which creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee’s right to, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to, receive all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a qualified Plan (i.e. employer sponsored).[2] A domestic relations order is qualified by a plan administrator upon the plan administrator’s determination that the order meets the plan’s rules for segregation. Such orders do not relate to Plans not covered by ERISA.

A domestic relations order is any judgment, decree, or order (including approval of a property settlement agreement) which (1) relates to the provision of child support, alimony payments, or marital property rights to a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant, and (2) is made pursuant to a State domestic relations law (including a community property law). (3)An alternate payee must meet ERISA’s definition of an alternate payee – any spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of a plan participant who is recognized by a domestic relations order as having a right to receive all, or a portion of, the benefits payable under a plan with respect to such participant.[4] Most States will allow QDROs to be entered to collect both past due and future child support payments.

A qualified domestic relations order (or QDRO, pronounced “cue-dro” or “qua-dro”), is a judicial order in the United States, entered as part of a property division in a divorce or legal separation that splits 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. A QDRO’s recognition of spousal ownership interest in a plan participant’s (employee’s) pension plan awards a portion of the plan participant’s benefit to an alternate payee. An alternate payee must be a spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of the plan participant. A QDRO may also be entered for spousal support or child support.[1] 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. Comparable types of orders divide military retirement pay and Federal civil service retirement plans, and for State, county and municipal retirement plans in most States. A QDRO may provide for marital or community property division between the plan participant and the alternate payee, or for the payment of alimony or child support to the alternate payee.

QDROs must first be issued by a State-level domestic relations court, and are then reviewed by plan administrators for compliance with the terms of the plan and with ERISA or other applicable law. The QDRO may be a separate document or it may be part of a divorce decree, and is valid as long as it meets the standards for a qualified domestic relations order under ERISA and meets the standards of the plan to which it applies. Courts have jurisdiction to declare a QDRO “qualified” as comporting with federal law, but pension plan administrators must determine whether a QDRO meets the requirements of a specific pension plan.

All QDROs must contain certain information:

  1. The formal name of the plan.
  2.  The full name and last known mailing address of the participant, employee or contributor (variously referred to as the “Plan Participant”, “Payee”, or “Distributee”), and the “Alternate Payee” (spouse, former spouse, or other payee),
  3. Social Security Numbers of both parties, (which for privacy purposes are often provided to the plan administrator under separate cover).
  4. Participant’s plan identification number if different from the participant’s Social Security Number
  5. The amount or portion of the plan benefit payable to the alternate payee and the method to be used to calculate such amount.
  6. For a defined benefit plan, the duration for which the benefit is payable to the alternate payee.


Who files the QDRO in a divorce?

The short and simple answer: the spouse who is on the receiving end of their portion of the retirement assets should file the QDRO. This is a protection that should be in place early on so that those funds cannot be directed someplace else by the asset holding spouse.

Who pays the taxes on a QDRO distribution?

A QDRO distribution that is paid to a child or other dependent is taxed to the plan participant. An individual may be able to roll over tax-free all or part of a distribution from a qualified retirement plan that he or she received under a QDRO.

How long does it take to get money from a QDRO?

Generally, the former spouse should expect to receive plan information and/or a distribution package within 30 to 60 days following the plan’s final approval of the QDRO.

How long do you have to be married to get half of retirement?

You can receive up to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefit. You can apply for benefits if you have been married for at least one year. If you have been divorced for at least two years, you can apply if the marriage lasted 10 or more years.

Can a QDRO be denied?

Occasionally, a plan will not allow the alternate payee to choose to have the benefit paid for the lifetime of the alternate payee instead of the lifetime of the participant, and making that choice in the QDRO will cause rejection.

Is a QDRO considered income?

When an ex-spouse receives distribution of plan benefits pursuant to a QDRO, he or she is responsible to pay the associated income tax.

Does QDRO need to be signed by both parties?

The QDRO is written as a “stipulation” which means “agreement” between you and your former spouse. Therefore, you must both sign it, in addition to the Judge’s signature. … Generally, both parties’ signatures are required in order to file the QDRO at court.


How can we help?

We have your back.

Speak to our experienced legal team who inspire, inform and work hard to win for you.

Start Here


Partner - Domestic Relations (Spanish Speaking)

Denver – Cherry Creek

More Articles

Share This Article