Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)

The alternative would be to actually divide the retirement benefits themselves. In most instances, but not all, this is possible. For those retirement benefit plans that are made available through private organizations (i.e., employers, etc.), this is as a result of the Retirement Equity Act of 1984, and it’s result, the Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, who provide the legal means by which to divide these assets. In short, the employment of a QDRO essentially assigns the non-employee spouse a portion of the retirement benefit as a "alternate payee". In many cases, this is the most pragmatic and simplest solution to the retirement benefit question.

For those retirement benefit plans which are not sponsored by the private sector, a QDRO may not be employed. These would include the U.S. Civil Service Retirement System, Federal Employees Retirement System, military pensions, as well as many local and state government plans. In these instances, oftentimes these plans can be divided by court order. However, each different government pension has its own type of specialized court which will make the final determinations. The same can be said for state and local government pensions. Another significant situation in which QDROs are not eligible would be Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). However, IRAs are easily divided or able to be transferred to separate accounts without the need for a QDRO.

Useful Online Tools

Suggested Reading
The Property Division Handbook The Property Division Handbook
This book will explain in detail the property distribution aspect of divorce and separation. It will focus on the rights each spouse has under certain laws, situations, and circumstances, and how the division of the property will be decided by the court or through negotiation.

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COMMUNITY PROPERTY VERSUS EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION -- There are two basic ways to handle divorce property division: Community Property: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Puerto Rico are community property states. This means that all marital property is typically defined as community property or separate property. When divorcing, community property is typically divided evenly, and each spouse keeps his or her separate property. Equitable Distribution: All other states follow equitable distribution. This means that a judge decides what is equitable, or fair, rather than simply splitting the property in two. In practice, this may mean that two-thirds of the property goes to the higher earning spouse, with the other spouse getting one-third.
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