For many divorcing couples, their most valuable asset, often worth more than the marital home, is their retirement accounts. Retirement plans and pensions are also some of the most complex assets to divide in a divorce. They may have been earned in part before the marriage, and in part afterward, meaning they are neither wholly separate nor wholly marital property. Dividing pensions and other plans also necessarily involves awarding each spouse their proper share of the current value of an asset whose value in the future may fluctuate.
A Domestic Relations Order (DRO) is a court order entered under the domestic relations law of a given state. The order recognizes the right of a spouse or former spouse of a participant in an employee benefit plan to be awarded part or all of the participant’s benefit under the plan. A DRO can also be used to award a participant’s benefits to a child or other dependent.
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a DRO that complies with the requirements of federal law, specifically the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). A QDRO directs a retirement plan, such as a pension or 401(k), to pay all or a portion of the plan participant’s benefit to an alternate payee, usually a spouse or ex-spouse.
An Eligible Domestic Relations Order (EDRO) is very similar to a QDRO, but applies to pensions and other retirement plans offered by Michigan state, county, and city public employers.
Domestic relations orders including QDROs and EDROs are typically prepared in conjunction with, or shortly after, a Michigan divorce judgment. Like the divorce judgment, these orders must be signed by the judge in the divorce case. In addition, DROs must then be sent to the Plan Administrator for the retirement benefit that is being divided.
Most plans have stringent requirements for DROs, and these vary from plan to plan and company to company. A QDRO that is acceptable to Charles Schwab, for instance, may be rejected by Fidelity. Attention to detail is critical; it is not uncommon for a DRO to be sent back to the preparing attorney repeatedly for revisions to bring it into compliance. Only when the Plan Administrator accepts the DRO can the retirement benefit be divided according to the order’s specifications.
QDROs, EDROs, and other DROs are likely the most complex orders in any domestic relations matter. Many family law attorneys prefer to have their clients’ DROs drafted by an attorney who works with these documents on a regular basis. Attorney J.D. Praasterink works with other attorneys in the Upper Peninsula, Northern Lower Peninsula, and throughout Michigan to promptly and efficiently prepare DROs for their clients.
J.D. Praasterink offers the family law attorneys and clients he assists meticulous attention to detail in QDRO preparation in order to minimize delays caused by back-and-forth requests from Plan Administrators. He takes pride in drafting orders quickly, yet accurately, and in responding swiftly to communications from attorneys, Plan Administrators, and clients regarding QDROs, EDROs, and other DROs.
If you are an attorney who needs reliable assistance with DROs, or a recently-divorced person who needs a QDRO or EDRO prepared in accordance with your divorce judgment, J.D. Praasterink can assist you. Contact St. Ignace attorney J.D. Praasterink today for a free consultation. Our office serves clients in Mackinac, Chippewa, Luce, Emmet and Cheboygan counties and throughout the state of Michigan.