A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”), or like order, is a court directive (order) 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.
The administrator of the retirement plan ultimately has to approve the QDRO, ensuring that it meets all the requirements under the plan and federal law. Once approved it’s then the administrator’s responsibility to enforce and apply the division or payments from that retirement asset or benefit as set forth in QDRO.
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.
In Arizona, all assets acquired during a marriage are presumed to be community property and, in the event of a divorce or legal separation, should be divided equally 50/50 between the parties. “During the marriage” is defined as the period from the date of marriage to the date of service, or the date a spouse is served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Petition for Legal Separation.
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.
If you were contributing to a retirement account before your marriage, anything earned up to the date of marriage is considered your sole and separate property; likewise, any contributions or service time accrued after the date of service is also considered your sole and separate property. 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.
For each retirement account that is to be divided, one QDRO, COAP, or other similar type of order will be required.
Max N. Hanson, Esq.
Here at Owens & Perkins, one of our attorneys, Max Hanson, has not only 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.
Mr. Hanson has been certified by the American Association of Certified QDRO Professionals 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 QDRO services include the preparing, drafting, review and advising on QDROs and other like orders needed for:
Mr. Hanson is also available to provide advice and counsel to parties and their counsel regarding:
 The American Association of Certified QDRO Professionals and certification herein are not an organization accredited by or recognized as an official board certification or specialty by the Arizona State Bar or its Board of Legal Specialization.
During divorce proceedings, parties may sometimes have a hard time deciding how to divide their property as well as any debts they may have incurred. As Arizona is a community property state, you would think the process would be easy: split anything and everything acquired and any debts incurred during the marriage. This allows both parties the opportunity to essentially divided the assets and debts into what each had prior to the marriage. Unfortunately, it can be and is often, much more complicated than that.
When a couple decides to divorce, there will be many questions regarding the division of assets and debts. A bank account may be simple enough to divide, but what happens with the things that are not as easily divided or valued like the house, student loans, or even retirement funds? Sometimes pre-marital assets can be used to acquire community assets, such as using monies one party had prior to marriage to help purchase a home titled in both parties’ names. Community monies may be used to pay off one parties’ student loans or other premarital debt.
Other times, the parties decide to share and use a bank account that one of the spouses had opened and was using prior to the marriage and over the span of their marriage, it may be now difficult to separate out the premarital funds from funds deposited during the marriage. Or the parties may have more debt than assets. All of these scenarios are common and make what could be simple, not so simple after all.
The goal for any Scottsdale divorce attorney is to make the division of assets and debts as fair as possible for both parties, which is easier said than done and can be the subject of significant conflict. When parties cannot agree, the Court will undertake the division as it sees fit, oftentimes along the lines of liquidating the community assets, paying off any community debt, and splitting whatever monies remain between the parties.
This type of wholesale liquidation and division, particularly when you and your spouse have spent years acquiring certain assets or accumulating savings for retirement, simplifies things for the Court but may be extremely unsatisfactory and disconcerting to both you and your spouse. It is always a better course to try and reach a resolution on the division of assets and debts with your spouse if you are seeking to maximize the preservation of assets in whole.
If you are considering or are in the midst of a divorce and the division of assets and debts is a major issue and the source of much conflict, consulting with an experienced attorney may help you in resolving these conflicts.
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