Usually, no. In our experience, it is ideal to have the QDRO process run parallel with the overall divorce process. That being said, the divorce should be far enough along that a draft of the marital settlement agreement is underway, as the final settlement should lay the foundation for the terms of the QDRO. Involving our office early on means we will be available to counsel the parties on their Judgment language, if desired. This also provides more opportunity to discuss and settle any issues that may arise while your counsel is fully engaged.
Most QDROs can be executed whether or not the final Judgment has been filed with the court. However, there are a small number of plans (a few pension plans, IRA companies, and municipal/federal plans, for example) that will not execute the final QDRO until they receive a copy of the final Judgment. In most cases, these plans will hold all of the final QDRO paperwork pending receipt of the final Judgment.
QDROs generally revolve around two dates: the date of marriage and the date of separation. Any contributions into the plans after the date of separation, and gains/losses on those contributions, are the separate property of the participant. However, the plan won't necessarily calculate them out. Participants can feel pressured to complete a QDRO so they know contributions to their plans are accounted for as their separate property. Alternate payees also can feel pressured to have the QDROs completed as they will not have control over or access to their portion of the retirement benefit until the QDRO is done.
If you are interested in having a QDRO completed, but you think that termination of status will not occur for some time yet, let us know. We can discuss your options and whether or not this could be an issue for you.
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