Divorce & Annulment

questions & answers

Question: I have been divorced since 2003. I have been living with my exhusband since the divorce. My divorce decree calls for me to receive half of his pension. I have never asked for any alimony until now. How do I go about getting half of his monthly pension and some back pension too? I receive SSI each month.

Answer:

Typically,  when a divorce decree provides that one spouse is awarded an interest in the other spouse's pension (or 401k plan), a qualified domestic relations order (aka a "QDRO"  - pronounced "quadro") is prepared by a third party (usually an attorney) after the divorce is finalized.  

A "QDRO" is defined as:

an order that creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee's right to receive, (or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive), all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a pension plan, and that includes certain information and meets certain other requirements.  ERISA § 206(d)(3)(B)(i); IRC § 414(p)(1)(A).

In over-simplified terms, a QDRO is an order that instructs the administrator of a retirement plan how the plan should be divided so that it complies with the divorce decree.  It also gives instructions on how to administer the payments.  Usually, the administrator of a pension REQUIRES a QDRO in order for the plan to be divided. 

If you have not received your interest in your ex-husband's pension, then I highly recommend that you contact an attorney to check/confirm whether you need a QDRO.  At the very least, you should contact the pension plan administrator directly to see if a QDRO is necessary.  The longer you delay in having a pension divided post-divorce, the more vulnerable you are to complications and delays in having the plan properly divided.  

You may want to contact the State Bar of Arizona for names of attorneys who practice in this area.

Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program:  602-340-7280

QUESTIONS

  • I have been divorced since 2003. I have been living with my exhusband since the divorce. My divorce decree calls for me to receive half of his pension. I have never asked for any alimony until now. How do I go about getting half of his monthly pension and some back pension too? I receive SSI each month.

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