I first speak to most of my QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) clients after their divorce has been finalized. Usually the divorce was resolved by a carefully negotiated written agreement. However, when it comes to dividing retirement benefits (often the largest assets to be divided), divorce attorneys sometimes opt for generic agreement language. Perhaps these attorneys lack the specialized knowledge to properly handle the details of the retirement assets, or simply they do not want to hold up resolution of the case by raising additional issues for negotiation. When my client comes to me with such an agreement, there is generally nothing I can do to change the base terms agreed upon for dividing the retirement benefit. All I can do is implement what has already been agreed upon by preparing the QDRO in accordance with the agreement terms.
Having an attorney with an strong understanding of retirement assets and QDROs review and revise the retirement agreement language before the divorce is complete can make a tremendous difference. I work with several divorce attorneys to ensure that their clients’ agreements contain the appropriate language for the specific retirement assets in their cases. The QDROs can then be completed with the clients’ expectations being met as to what they or their ex-spouse will receive.
If you are going through a divorce involving retirement assets and your current attorney will not be preparing your QDRO, ask your attorney about involving a QDRO attorney prior to signing the divorce settlement agreement.