As you and your spouse begin the divorce process, you may need to pay particular attention to your respective retirement accounts and pension plans. These form part of your marital property. As such, you must divide them between you in a fair and equitable manner. Sometimes, however, this becomes much easier said than done. 

SmartAsset.com explains that any of your or your spouse’s plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a/k/a ERISA, will require a qualified domestic relations order, a/k/a a QDRO. Why? Because each such plan has a specific set of rules by which the plan can distribute the money in it. If you fail to adhere to these rules in your property settlement agreement, the consequences could be negative at best and catastrophic at worst. 

Your best interests dictate that before starting to draft your QDRO, you or your attorney contact the plan’s administrator and request a model QDRO form. This gives your attorney the guidelines which (s)he will need to minutely follow as (s)he drafts your specific QDRO. As a precaution, your attorney should then send your QDRO to the plan administrator for his or her approval prior to filing it with your divorce court. 

Divorcing couples usually use QDROs to cover property settlement divisions or spousal support payments, but you may also be able to use yours for child support payment purposes in some situations. Keep in mind that your divorce judge must also approve your QDRO. (S)he will then either incorporate it into your ultimate divorce decree or possibly issue it as a separate court order.