During a divorce, most couples usually split community property assets 50/50. However, a couple may choose not to divide their current retirement plans, and each waive any community property interest they may have. In the first place, it is not necessary to divide all retirements plans in a divorce. However, if the court has ordered the division of a retirement account, or the parties have agreed to divide one or more retirement accounts, it will be necessary to file a QDRO after divorce. We often receive calls from client about how to file a QDRO after divorce. Here is what you need to know about the QDRO process after divorce.

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Get help filing a California QDRO!

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The courts use a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO; pronounced “quaw-dro”) to officially divide a former spouse’s interest in a retirement plan or pension plan. If your spouse won’t sign QDRO, then you will not be able to complete the process of dividing the retirement account. However, the spouse refusing to sign the QDRO could find themselves held in contempt of court for refusing to do so. This article reviews options you may have if your ex-spouse is refusing to sign your QDRO.

What is a QDRO?

A QDRO is a formal court order that gives instructions to a pension plan administrator to divide a defined benefit plan after divorce and provide a part of it to an ex-spouse.

It may also be used to separate IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement plans. The division can be a percentage or a specific dollar amount. Keep mind that the QDRO process is an extra step after the court enters the divorce judgment. It will be specific to one retirement account, meaning that if you have more than one retirement plan to divide, you will need to prepare a separate QDRO for each plan.

A couple should prepare and file their QDRO as soon as the court grants a divorce judgment. You will need a QDRO if you are trying to divide the following:

  1. 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plan
  2. Tax-sheltered annuities
  3. Corporate defined benefit or pension plans
  4. Employee stock ownership plan
  5. Profit-sharing plan
  6. Thrift plan

Each provider may have particular guidelines regarding how to divide the above-referenced plans.

Penalties for Refusing to Sign QDRO

If your spouse won’t sign the QDRO, you will need a court order that directs the court clerk to sign on their behalf. Once you have that order, you no longer need your ex-spouse’s signature on the QDRO. It is also possible that if your spouse continues to resist, the court may order them in contempt of court. This means you will file a contempt request with the court. According to California Family Law, the court may enforce a QDRO court order by contempt, the appointment of a receiver, execution (enacting the order), or any other method the court requires. Once your former spouse is found guilty of contempt, the court can levy a fine of no more than $1,000 or imprison your ex-spouse for no more than five days. Sometimes, the court will do both.

You do not need to hire an attorney to file a QDRO after divorce in California. Contact A People’s Choice and our legal document preparer will walk you through the steps you need to complete to successfully divide your retirement plan consistent with your divorce judgment. Call us today at 805-749-5098.

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