Our retainer estimates are based on the total number of QDROs or other court Orders needed to divide your and/or your former spouse's retirement plans. We may also include an additional retainer for tracing calculations or the completion of additional court documents, like Joinders, that may be required to complete the objective.
Usually, QDROs can be drafted and circulated to the parties within 1-2 weeks of our office receiving all of the necessary information. It can take longer if you are also hiring Elizabeth Strasen to perform tracing calculations, or if only part of the information needed is submitted to our office.
Full execution (transfer of assets) generally takes between 3-7 months. We have completed cases as quickly as eight weeks. Contention between the parties has caused rare cases to remain open for several years.
Unless your divorce settlement included ownership of real estate (and many times, even including real estate), retirement assets usually represent the single largest asset that must be divided when you divorce. Since California is a community property state, each party is entitled to 50% of the total retirement benefit accrued during the marriage, unless an alternate agreement is reached. It seems strange, then, that most marital settlement agreements don't spend more than a few sentences on the division of retirement benefits worth tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars.
Deciding who should pay the retainer to divide retirement plans can be contentious, but refusing to pay can put you at risk for violating your court ordered divorce settlement. Although it may not seem like it initially, both the participant and the alternate payee have very good reasons to invest in a professional to perform this service.
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.
Unfortunately, it is often true that clients who delay getting their QDRO done for more than a year after the date of separation (not the same as the date that your status as married terminated) end up incurring higher fees to complete their QDROs. Many of the most difficult and litigious problems that arise in this area of law are the result of QDROs that were not completed in a timely manner.
A very important part of our job is to give our clients the opportunity to understand what the actual implications of the QDRO will be. In certain situations, clients are surprised or dismayed to learn that the results they want from the QDRO will not be achieved automatically.