During a Divorce or Legal Separation, one of the major tasks at hand is to divide the parties’ assets—those may include assets such as residential or commercial real estate, businesses, personal property, financial assets, and so on. In the state of Arizona, all assets acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property and should be divided equally 50/50 between the parties.
Contributions to retirement accounts and benefits during the marriage, which include both monetary contributions by a spouse, matches by their employer as well as increased benefits to a pension as the result of years worked or purchased (“service time”), all are considered as community property or assets acquired during the marriage and are therefore subject to division in a divorce or legal separation.
The division of retirement accounts and benefits is one of the very last stages of a divorce or legal separation wherein one or both parties have such assets. For many of us, our retirement assets or benefits may be of significant value, therefore the calculation and division of the same is of the utmost importance.
Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)
The process for dividing parties’ retirement benefits is completed via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, more commonly known as a “QDRO.”
A QDRO (or like order) is a court directive to a plan administrator of the retirement asset or benefit that defines how the parties’ retirement accounts will be divided and how they will be allocated to the non-employee party after a divorce.
After going through an entire divorce, the parties are typically emotionally raw, exhausted, and ready to be done. Although the QDRO process typically takes place near the end of the road, it’s important to remain vigilant and ensure your QDRO is properly drafted.
Ensure your QDRO is Accepted by the Retirement Plan Administrator
Ultimately, the administrator of the retirement plan has to approve the QDRO, ensuring that it meets all the requirements under the plan and federal law. They will then enforce and apply the division, or payments to the non-employee spouse, from that retirement asset or benefit as set forth in QDRO.
Therefore, it is crucial that the QDRO be in the proper form and have all the required elements so it can be approved by the plan administrator and the monies from these retirement assets disbursed appropriately as outlined in the order.
Hire a Qualified, Experienced QDRO Attorney
In preparation of the QDRO or other similar order, in addition to determining the proper order needed and requirements for the same, calculations are made as to the community portion of the specified retirement account and how it will be divided between the parties. These calculations are complex and are best completed by the right person
One excellent way to ensure your QDRO is going to be accepted and is implementable is by choosing an attorney with the necessary experience and education to properly calculate, prepare, and implement the QDRO.
Scottsdale, Arizona QDRO Attorney
Here at Owens & Perkins, one of our attorneys, Max Hanson, not only has 25 years of experience as a family law attorney and working with the division of retirement assets, but has received additional extensive and specialized education in the calculation, preparation and implementation of QDROs, COAPs, and other like orders through the American Association of Certified QDRO Preparers and has been certified by this entity as a Certified QDRO Specialist (“CQS”).
As a CQS, Mr. Hanson has completed significant coursework and passed proctored exams in connection with the same that have qualified him for making the complex, difficult calculations and determinations that are requisite for QDRO preparation. Mr. Hanson’s services in this area include the preparing, drafting, review and advising on QDROs and other like orders needed for:
- Defined contribution retirement plans (ie., 401(k), 403(b), and profit sharing)
- Defined benefit retirement plans (ie., the classic pension)
- State and Federal retirement plans (ie., FERS, TSP, ASRS, Railroad Tier II)
- Military retired pay and benefits
Mr. Hanson is also available to provide advice and counsel to parties and their counsel on appropriate and necessary language and terms relating to division of retirement assets and benefits for inclusion into proposed divorce decree and/or property settlement agreements. He can also review and advise parties on QDROs or other like orders prepared and drafted by others.
If you’re going through a divorce or legal separation of your own, and you and/or your spouse have retirement accounts to be divided, you may likely need a QDRO (or other like order) prepared for those accounts. The QDRO process can be made simple with an experienced, knowledgeable, and highly-educated QDRO attorney by your side.
Whether you need full representation for your divorce or separation, or just need assistance with drafting a QDRO, our attorneys at Owens & Perkins have the experience, skill, and tenacity to help you resolve your case. Call us today at 480.994.8824.
Learn More About Qualified Domestic Relations Orders:
 The American Association of Certified QDRO Professionals and certification herein are not an organization accredited by or recognized as an official board certification or speciality by the Arizona State Bar or its Board of Legal Specialization.