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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. When do I need a pension evaluation?

A. A pension evaluation is necessary when the settlement method is Immediate Offset. In this type of settlement the will be an immediate division of assets, pursuant to which the employee retains her of his full pension while the Former Spouse is given another asset of "equal" worth.

Q. What is the difference between a Domestic Relations Order and a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

A. A Domestic Relations Order is issued by a court of competent jurisdiction and it assigns to an Alternate Payee all or a portion of the employee's retirement benefit. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is the result of a Plan Administrator determining that the DRO is "qualified". Thus, adding the "Q" to the "DRO". The result is a "QDRO".

Q. Is a QDRO necessary for a Former Spouse to receive her of his benefit award?

A. Absent a QDRO a Plan may not make any distribution to a Former Spouse.

Q. Do Federal and State Retirement Systems require a QDRO?

A. The process begins with a Court Order (Domestic Relations Order). For a Federal Plan the designation of the Order is:

Court Order Acceptable for Processing

For State and Municipal Plans the designation of the Order varies, however, it is not unusual for the Order to be designate:

Qualified Domestic Relations Order or simply a Domestic Relations Order

For Military Orders, the designation is "Military Order". Avoid use of the term "QDRO".

Q. How soon after a Domestic Relations Order is "Qualified" can I begin to receive my court awarded benefit? The timing of distributions to an Alternate Payee depends on the type of plan.

  • Qualified Defined Benefit Plan: It is strongly suggested that an Alternate Payee not begin to receive her of his award until the earlier of the employee's retirement or attaining Normal Retirement Age as such age is defined in the subject plan.
  • Qualified Defined Contribution Plan: For most plans the employee's Earliest Retirement Age. However, many plans will make a distribution to an Alternate Payee as soon as administratively practicable subsequent to the qualification of the Domestic Relations Order.

Q. My spouse is a Federal Employee. What is the maximum amount I can receive from a Court Order Acceptable for Processing?

A. 100% of the retiree's "net annuity".

Q. If my Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage did not mention a Joint and 50% Survivor Annuity, can a Domestic Relations Order award this important benefit to me?

A. If an "executed court order" awards you a survivor annuity, in spite of the fact that such award is not mentioned in the Judgment, and further assuming the employee's attorney does not object, it is likely that this order will be obeyed and you will then be entitled to a Joint and Survivor Annuity benefit.