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The Do's and Don'ts of a QDRO

Dividing your property in a divorce is often one of the most difficult tasks. While you may agree on the details, handling the legal aspects may be trickier. One of the most common situations that require a bit more work is dividing a retirement account.

Whether it is your account or you will receive money from your former spouse's account, the court must create a formal document to present to the plan administrator that allows money to go to someone other than the named account holder. The U.S. Department of Labor explains a document that allows someone else to get benefits from a retirement plan that is not the account holder is a Qualified Domestic Relation Order. Here is a look at some details about the requirements for this document.

What it must include

A QDRO must come from a court. To receive benefits through this order, you must be a dependent of the account holder, former spouse or the guardian of a minor dependent. The order must provide detailed information about you and the instructions for benefit disbursement.

A QDRO must contain your name and mailing address, the name of the plan, the number of payments or the term for payments and the amount of payments in dollars or a percentage. The document can only provide benefits that the plan provides.

What it cannot include

A QDRO cannot require the plan to increase benefits for the payee. It also cannot conflict with an existing order.

It is important to note that although a judge will issue a QDRO, it is the plan administrator who has the final say on approving it. If your QDRO does not meet requirements or excludes required information, the plan administrator may not accept it. You must ensure that you provide the court with accurate and complete information so the document has all the information the plan administrator needs.

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