How do I file a QDRO?
September 12, 2006 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Do I really need a lawyer to file a QDRO?

As part of my divorce agreement, I need to file a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) to transfer $20k from my 401k to my ex-wife. Do I really need a lawyer to do this, or can I write something up myself and submit it to the court?

If I need a lawyer, how do I find one in my area that won't cost me a lot of money?
posted by indigo4963 to Law & Government (4 answers total)
What jurisdiction are you in? (I'm assuming you're in the US, since you have a 401(k).)

Nolo Press publishes a lot of legal self-help books, and they got their start doing divorce materials, so I'd start by going to the public library and seeing if they have a book for your state. Even if they don't, you might want to see what other states' books say about QDROs. My guess is that they'll recommend you get a lawyer's advice, but I could be wrong.

If it turns out you need an attorney, a good place to start is a local bar association. Google for your city or metropolitan area and the phrase "bar association" and see what you get. Many of them have lawyer referral services.

Good luck!
posted by tellumo at 1:02 PM on September 12, 2006

QDROs are defined in US federal laws and regulations pertaining to pension and retirement plans. I remembered this from working in a benefit administration office back 15 or 20 years ago.
posted by Robert Angelo at 1:25 PM on September 12, 2006

I used to work for a fairly major 401(k) provider, and you would not believe the bitterness and anger that surround QDRO's. People got not just a chunk of current balances, but a percentage of all future contributions, or a percentage of contributions for a period of time, or backdated contribs plus interest. Any sort of financial nightmare you can imagine can be made possible with a well-worded QDRO.

Anyway. If things are relatively good between you and the ex, if truly all that's happening is a straight, day-of-QDRO 20K balance transfer, you can probably draft one yourself. Most 401(k) providers (not the company you work for, the company that runs your 401 - fidelity, vanguard, etc) usually have a boilerplate QDRO form they will accept.

If things aren't so good, or you have reason to believe there may be complications or further demands on your 401(k) later, or anything like that, then you'll definitely want an attorney to nail down exactly what can and cannot be transferred.
posted by pdb at 3:13 PM on September 12, 2006

luckily, I just have to give a one-time chunk of the current balance. And luckily, the divorce was amicable and we're on speaking terms.
posted by indigo4963 at 5:54 AM on September 14, 2006

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