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Divorce and the need for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order

What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO is an order issued by the family court which allows you to access a portion of your spouse's pension and/or retirement plan, such as 401(k) and IRAs.

By itself, a divorce decree will not allow you to access the pension and/or retirement plan of your spouse. If the South Carolina Family Court determines you are entitled to a portion of your spouse's pension and/or retirement plan; in addition to a divorce decree, a QDRO must be completed and submitted to the pension and/or retirement plan administrator, who will review the QDRO and if approved, allow you to receive your portion of the funds in your spouse's pension or retirement plan.

How to get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

The first step in acquiring a QDRO is collecting information. The necessary information is as follows: Names of the parties involved, social security numbers of both parties, address of both parties, date of birth for each party, dated of marriage, and the parties divorce date. The following information regarding the plan will also be needed: Name of the plan and contact information of the plan administrator. The plan administrator will be able to provide a copy of the plan summary and a list of the QDRO procedures which will be followed when drafting the QDRO.

The next step is drafting the QDRO in accordance to the procedures provided by the plan administrator. Once the QDRO is drafted it will be sent to the plan administrator for preapproval. Preapproval is not necessary, but it is highly recommended and beneficial due to the greatly reduced chance of any issues being found with the QDRO during its final review.

Once reviewed by the plan administrator for preapproval, and all the needed modifications are made, the parties involved will need to sign the QDRO. After all the parties involved sign the QDRO, it will need to be taken to the family court for a judge approval and signature.

The last step in the QDRO process is for a certified copy of the QDRO to be sent to the plan administrator for final approval. With preapproval having been attained, this step should be relatively short and painless. In most cases once final approval is granted the funds should be immediately available, however depending on the specific plan, you may have to wait till a specific date before the funds become available.

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