You say Q-D-R-O, I say Quadro…

In this blog, it is pointed out that Jerry Rice and his wife are divorced, though the economic issues have yet to be resolved. This same posting gives a very good and very simple explanation of what a “bifurcated divorce” means. The blog also mentions that Mr. Rice and his ex-wife have also had the appropriate QDRO’s or Qualified Domestic Relations Orders entered. Depending on where you live in Pennsylvania, you may pronounce the abbreviation of this phrase either by its letters “Q-D-R-O” (pronounced cue dee are oh) or as a single word pronounced quadro. No matter how you say it, it is still the same thing.

A qualified domestic relations order is generally the type of order that is necessary to divide certain retirement benefits. When parties are going through a divorce and there are retirement benefits to be divided, it may be necessary to have a QDRO prepared and signed by a judge in order to effectuate the division of the retirement account. Usually, the QDRO calls for a specific percentage or specific dollar amount of one party’s retirement account to be separated from the account and placed into a new account either with the same plan or with a plan designated by the other party. If a new plan is not designated, then the funds are placed into a retirement account with that same plan. So the person who is the recipient of the retirement benefits becomes a participant in that company’s retirement plan without having to work at the job.

The usual steps for the entry of a QDRO are as follows:
1. A determination has to be made by agreement of the parties or by the court as to how the retirement benefits are to be divided.
2. Someone finds out from the benefits person managing the retirement account what forms the company prefers to divide a retirement account.
3. The necessary forms are then prepared by an actuary or sometimes an attorney.
4. The forms are then sent to the plan administrator for pre-approval.
5. Any changes, corrections or clarifications are made to the form.
6. Once pre-approved, after a divorce decree is entered, the form is sent to the appropriate judge for approval of the order dividing the retirement benefits.
7. Once it has been signed by a judge, it is sent to the plan administrator again for final approval and implementation.

This method for division of retirement benefits is most helpful when one party to a divorce has little to no retirement benefits in his or her own name.

Some retirement benefits can not be divided by a QDRO, but must rely on the entry of a DRO or Domestic Relations Order. From a practical perspective, i.e. the perspective of the person whose retirement benefits are being divided and the perspective of the person who is receiving the retirement benefits, the difference is minimal. Of course, if I am over-simplifying things, please let me know.

  1. February 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Hi, I have a blog on a similar subject than yours, which is already an excellent resource. I feel that your readers could benefit from visiting my blog as well. Thanks for your efforts.

  2. Karen S Gould
    June 11, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I live in PA, my ex was to set up a QDRO in my name,he was a school teacher. That was 14years ago and he has never followed the Order in our divorce decree. I am intitled to the interest my monies would have made over the years, he my ex disagrees. His attorney and my attorney agree that I am intitled to the interest. Any ideas on where to get info on this matter? Thank You KG.

    • Michael Viola
      June 12, 2011 at 9:59 am

      Talk with your lawyer about a petition to enforce your divorce decree specifically the division of the retirement acct. Make sure the QDRO is prepared beforehand or at least the draft is prepared.

  3. shirley
    September 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

    i have a qudro order that was finalized 10 years ago, in that time my ex husbands company never set up the acct or divided the money, now that they have moved their accts to Fidelity since April, Fidelity is making it difficult for me to get any information on this at all. I am entitled to draw from this money and now all they tell me is that they are researching it even though they have the order from the judge. They will not commit to a date as to when all this will be done. who do i contact to force them to release this money

    • Michael Viola
      September 9, 2011 at 8:28 am

      I am sorry that you are going through this. It may be necessary to bring an action against your husband and possibly his employer to enforce the Order. You should talk to an attorney in the county where your divorce decree was entered about your options.

  4. Deborah Dose
    December 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    The judge who granted me my divorce okay-ed the papers saying that
    I should quadro the money my ex has in his account. My lawyer said it costs $750.00 For him My lawyer) to do that. Shouldn’t this service be part of the divorce?

    • Michael Viola
      December 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      The answer to your question depends upon your fee arrangement with your attorney. Some attorneys would consider that part of the work. I do not. I do not prepare QDRO’s.

  5. Renee
    December 28, 2011 at 9:34 am

    My divorce decree states that in order for the QDRO to effectuate it would have to be entered with the court within 28 days of the date of the divorce. It does not state which party has the responsibility to do so. It has been 5 years and now my ex has filed for the QDRO, Does the 28 days stated in the divorce decree mean nothing?

    • Michael Viola
      January 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      There is no simple answer to this question. Is there any guidance from the courts in your jurisdiction? Will your Plan Administrator accept a QDRO 5 years later?

  6. rick
    January 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    My ex wife and I have a QDR0 approved by a court in Del. County.we want to change the agreement,what do we need to do?

    • Michael Viola
      January 3, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      The best way to proceed is to have an agreement prepared setting forth the new terms. You will need to have a new QDRO prepared, which will have to be pre-approved by the plan administrator (again), signed again by you and your ex-wife, submitted to the Court for approval and then submitted to the Plan Administrator for approval and implementation. I would suggest that you contact the Plan Administrator to see if your Plan will allow a new QDRO by agreement. Good luck.

  7. Anita
    March 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I need help! We did a QDRO at the time of our divorce in 1994. My ex died in 2009 at the age of 59, 2 days short of his 60th birthday. At the time of his death, he was on long term disability. I am being told that I have to wait till my ex would have reached age 65 in 2015 before I can start receiving my portion of his pension. The reason they state is that “the Disability Pension benefit is not considered a qualified pension benefit unit the Plan partcipant converts to a qualified pension benefit; when my ex either ceases to be disabled and returns to work or when he attains age 65.” Is this legal? I also have been told they treat ex-spouses different than a spouse regarding benefits, this seems like discrimination. I know someone in the same co. who was on disability and died before age 65 and they continued to pay his wife her benefits. What recourse do I have if any?
    Thanks for any suggestions…

    • Michael Viola
      March 26, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Unfortunately, the answers to your questions are outside my area of expertise. I would suggest that you contact an attorney in your city who has knowledge regarding employment law and how retirement plans work.

  8. CAROL
    June 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Thank you for this information, especially the part that explains he usual steps for the entry of a QDRO. In 2005 my ex and I had two QUADROs drawn but we never submitted them to our retirement boards. Recently my ex withdrew his total money put into his plan. I did not receive any of his money and now wish to keep my retirement in whole in a few years when I retire. According to the QDRO we were going to split the retirements as well as my 401.

  9. Renee
    June 19, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I have a question I hope someone can answer , my husband was divorced 3 years ago his ex recieved 50 percent of his pension from company abc, that is what Quadro states, however my ABC company bought xyz company 3 years prior to quadro , it just came to my attention that XYX pension and ABC send 2 seperate checks out. So the question is does she just get half from ABC company or does a seperate quadro need to be done for XYZ company and if so, can she come back 3 years later to get a new quadro done since the first was already approved by the court and the retirement office????

    • Michael Viola
      June 22, 2012 at 9:23 am

      There is no simple answer to your question. There is some additional information that would be needed to better answer your question. Let’s first assume that Pennsylvania law applies to your situation. Because, if the case is not in PA, I am not authorizes to provide you with any advice. What is the relationship between the ABC and XYZ pensions? Did one roll into the other or are they separate pensions? Was the existence of any pension from XYZ brought to wife’s attention as part of the divorce? I think the best course of action would be for your husband to discuss this with the attorney who handled his divorce.

  10. July 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    My divorce was final June 21,2012 and in the the final decree was for Domestic Relation and 50% pension when divorce was final. Im still waiting for my lawyer to get my money from pension, I need that money to help me with financial needs for my daughter tuition in college.

    • Michael Viola
      July 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Has the appropriate QDRO or DRO been prepared and approved by the Plan Administrator?

  11. Paul Tis
    September 30, 2012 at 7:24 am

    I received my divorce decree (Montgomery County, PA) in April of 2012. Part of our separation agreement was that my ex-spouse was to execute a QDRO to transfer retirement assets from her to me. However, that hasn’t occured and I pressume because she’s not in any hurry. When I brought it up with her a few times … she gives me an excuse of why she hasn’t “gotten around to it”. How can I initiate the process?

    • Michael Viola
      October 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      The simple answer is to file a Petition to Enforce the Separation Agreement. You can also hire someone to prepare the QDRO, but they will likely require some additional information from your ex-spouse.

      • Paul
        October 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

        Thanks for the prompt response. Would it be possible to do both of your recommendations – file the petition and hire someone to prepare the QDRO? If so, are they typically the same or would I need to hire separate attorneys?

      • Michael Viola
        October 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

        You can do both. Whether or not 1 atty can do both depends upon the attorney as not every attorney prepares QDRO’s. I do not.

  12. Kim
    December 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Hi Mike,
    I am a school teacher from New Jersey. I read your QUADRO information. My pension was split in this way. My ex husband will receive a sizable portion of my pension upon my retirement. My question is related to another problem regarding ‘my portion’ of my pension. I recently became disabled. For many years I have paid into a private long term disability plan endorsed by NJEA. The disability plan (PruProtect Plus) pays a set monthly figure minus the recipient’s pension benefit. Which number should Prudential use to determine my disability benefit… the total monthly pension figure or the reduced figure due to the QUADRO. Since the full monthly pension number is the same as the disability figure, they are telling me I will receive little or no benefit. If they use my actual monthly pension benefit figure, I would receive $1000 a month disability benefit. It seems to me I am getting the raw end of the deal twice over, and I am blind to boot. Help!

    • Michael Viola
      December 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      I am not an expert of QDRO’s or retirement benefits. You should talk to someone with more expertise. My initial thought, however, would be that your monthly pension is the amount AFTER the execution of the QDRO because the QDRO divided your benefits.

  13. January 8, 2013 at 9:47 am

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  14. mike
    January 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    In the divorce decree it was stated that my ex was responsible for the quadro to be drawn up. She is getting the benefits from my 401k and pension. A year and a half later nothing has been done. my lawyer sent a letter to her lawyer withno response. My ex has already defaulted on the mortgage and forged my name on a loan. Is there any kind of benefit for her to not have the quadro drawn up, I am suspecting some sort of scam down the line.

    • Michael Viola
      January 18, 2013 at 11:56 am

      The best thing to do would be to discuss this with your attorney as your attorney has a better understanding of the facts and circumstances in your case. It is my understanding that, if the QDRO is not executed, she can not get a portion of your retirement benefits. Make sure that it is her responsbility to have the QDRO prepared as she may be waiting for you to do something. Although not addressed in my post, your reply mentions your ex-wife allegedly forging your name on loan docs. It is in your best interest to get that addressed as soon as possible.

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  16. Justin Mclitus
    March 20, 2013 at 12:39 am

    This site is awsome. Here’s my question(s) and I hope you can point me in the right direction. Divorce was final in 2010, 2 years later I receive the divorce paperwork and sign it, two months from that date 6/2012, exs attorney received a prepard QDRO (requires signatures/filing) now a year later my exs attorney still has a completed QDRO that needs all parties signatures. I have not seen it for my signature. I spoke to the law office that completed the QDRO 3/17/13 and was told her attorney was the only attorney who received the QDRO, and that it was her responsibility to”finish and file” the QDRO with the courts. My ex’s attorney I’m sure is having fee issues with my ex, her problem not mine. The problem I have is that I am unable to access my retirement accounts due to the QDRO “pending” on my accounts. I contacted the lawyer who represented me in my divorce and asked why my ex’s attorney took two years to draft the divorce finalized paperwork for signatures and then 3 years to get a QDRO completed only to sit on it for a year. I feel she is extorting the QDRO in lieu of fees that my ex may or may not owe her. My attorney told me he didn’t know why she was stalling and suggested that I actually call my ex wife’s attorney? Is that not strange? Her attorney requested that I become FB friends twice during the divorce, I complained to my attorney and it stopped, but just saying she was a prize. My question is this, what can I do to get my ex wife’s attorney to finish and file the QDRO? I’m the ex husband and I have NO problem with the QDRO, I just want it completed and filed. I can’t contact my ex to see if she will get her attorney to act, as we are like oil and water after the divorce. I’ve made numerous attempts to contact her, even informing her how much $$$ she would have access to immediately, but to date zero response. Already written a complaint to the CA Bar, don’t know if that will do any good. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Michael Viola
      March 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

      I cannot offer an explanation as to why your ex-wife’s attorney is not finalizing the QDRO. One option that you have is to file a petition with the Court seeking to enforce that provision of your divorce decree or agreement which provides for the divsion of your retirement account. That petition should lay out the facts of the case with regard to opposing counsel’s failure to prepare the QDRO paperwork. You can ask the Court to approve the QDRO.

      Despite the advice that your attorney gave you, you cannot contact your ex’s attorney. An attorney is not supposed to have any communication with a represented party. As far as your ex’s attorney knows, you are still represented by counsel. Your attorney would have to advice your ex’s attorney that he/she is no longer representing you and that the attorney can deal with you directly. Of course, if your ex’s attorney indicates that he/she is no longer representing your ex, then it back between you and your ex to work out. That is why I think the more efficient course of action is to take it to a judge.

  17. April 14, 2013 at 7:12 am

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  18. Joy
    April 16, 2013 at 7:23 am

    I have a qudro from my ex husbands pension. It is in a locked plan until he is 55. I am in deep financial trouble due to the divorce and virtually homeless. The agreement during the divorce was that I get this money and I gave him the home. Neither lawyer did any research before preparing the quardro. He sits in a nice house while I live with friends. His local does not have a hardship clause…….how do I get these funds released?

    • Michael Viola
      April 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

      The answer to your question is beyond my ability to respond based solely on your email. You need to talk to your divorce attorney, an attorney who specializes in the preparation of QDRO’s, and/or an attorney familiar with the specifics of that retirement plan. You may be able to withdraw funds from the plan and pay the appropriate tax and penalty. One of experts outlined above would be better able to answer your question.

  19. Kristin
    May 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I have a question my divorce was granted 1/25/13 my ex-husband’s attorney was responsible for forwarding payment to QDRO accountant. She didn’t do until 5/10/13. I live in MA does this make my ex-husband ineligible for his $. I had heard she only had 30 days from receipt of my 1/2 of the cost of hiring of accountant she received than $ long ago….

    • Michael Viola
      May 17, 2013 at 9:02 am

      I am sorry but I can not assist you based on the information that you provided. It is my understanding that you need to get the QDRO prepared before your ex-husband retires. If he or his attorney is not taking care of their end of the agreement, you may have to petition the court to get an order directing your husband to take the appropriate steps for the entry of the QDRO.

  20. Maria
    July 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    What happen if an attorney failed to file qdro then dies few years after

    • Michael Viola
      July 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Your case seems to be more complicated that can be addressed through a blog. I suggest you contact an attorney in your area to assist you.

  21. July 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm

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  22. Tony Hamlin
    November 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    This is my situation. I got divorced 12 years ago and we signed a QDRO on an acct I had with Philip Morris for $ 50K. Seven years went by and I wanted to roll the acct over and contacted Philip Morris. No QDRO had been filed by my wife and they sent me the entire $ 50K which I invested into another acct. My retirement adviser tells me that the QDRO is for a specific account which no longer exists and because she didn’t file the QDRO she is not entitled to the money. Makes sense to me, what do you think?

    • Michael Viola
      November 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Your situation is more complicated that it appears. If the QDRO was signed and if there was a written agreement indicating how much from your retirement account, there is a chance that a court will order you to compensate your ex-wife for the retirement benefits that she did not receive. You should consult with an attorney and bring with you copies of any marital settlement agreement, your divorce decree, and the signed QDRO.

  23. January 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm

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  24. Pat c
    March 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Hello, I was divorced in 2011 a qdro was never filed, in fact in the divorce decree it never gave a percentage or dollar amount, what the retirement fund was worth. In the finale papers it was worded equitable share. I have to go back to court an find out what equitable share means. So does this mean it’s up for renegotiation or we have to agree on what we agreed to…

    • Michael Viola
      June 13, 2014 at 8:26 am

      It is not possible for me to give you a definitive answer without a lot more information. I would suggest you contact a qualified attorney with experience handling family law matters in your area. That attorney will want to see any agreements that were signed regarding the division of assets and the divorce decree that was entered. Good luck.

  25. Anette
    March 28, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I have a Qudro in place. I’m wondering when I can start receiving benefits without a reduced amount? Our divorce was in 1995 and I am fully vested and 30 years would have been in 2008.

    • Michael Viola
      June 13, 2014 at 8:28 am

      If a QDRO has been entered and implemented, then a portion of your retirement account was divided and given to your former spouse. Once that division has been made, you get your share of the retirement account when you retire. The amount you receive would not go up again. If I am not understanding your situation correctly, perhaps you should consult with an attorney in your area and show the attorney your divorce agreement, divorce decree and the QDRO.

  26. Steve Z
    May 14, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Scenario is: Husband and wife separated legally and divorced 8 years later. Decree by arbitrator was that a QDRO be filled out for husband’s pension (didn’t say by who but I assume by the ex wife). Two pensions were valued at 100k lump sum and 20k defined benefit respectively at the date of legal separation. Husband retires early (8 years after divorce) and wants his pension, presents divorce papers. Pension fund sends letter to ex wife and her attorney requesting QDRO and receives no response. Entire lump sum is given to husband and he also begins receiving defined benefit. Four years after he has been receiving monthly payments, the ex-wife wants what is hers yet no QDRO has been filled out.

    Questions are:
    Is she entitled to retroactive pay from when the husband started receiving defined benefit? Is she entitled to the interest gained/lost in the pension from the date of separation?
    Is she entitled to or how is interest calculated after the date that the lump sum was liquidated (ie the 4 years after the husband withdrew)?
    Basically what can she receive and with what interest if any and is there any penalty for not filing the QDRO that would prevent her from receiving any portion of the decree?

    • Michael Viola
      June 13, 2014 at 8:32 am

      Not a simple situation. You really should sit down with an attorney in your area with copies of the relevant documents.

  27. October 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Iam already divorce with my ex.husband.but I’am a part of a QUADRO. After my final divorce.he gives some money’s for me from all his shared especially 401k.but according to my that his advanced money’s just to pay me…my question is my ex.his not retire yet as of I’m still the part of his retirement claims once he will retire soon? Or not anymore since now I’am a marriage with some body’ Esle.


    • Michael Viola
      October 28, 2014 at 10:26 am

      The benefits you are supposed to receive will depend upon the specific language of the QDRO. If your QDRO says that you get a specific percentage of your ex-husband’s retirement benefits when he retires, you will have to wait until he retires to get your benefit. If your QDRO says that the plan is to segregate a portion of his retirement benefits into an account for you, then you will have your own retirement account when you retire. I would advise your meeting with an attorney in your area who can review the QDRO and any agreement that was executed as part of your divorce.

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  31. Michael Viola
    October 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    You should consult with an attorney in your area to see about getting your divorce decree enforced with regard to that QDRO

  1. August 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm

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