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Advice for those filing a QDRO

If you have been following our blogs on property division, you know how important it is to adhere to court guidelines and make your requests in a timely fashion. Failing to follow protocol can lead to tax penalties and bog down the transfer of assets. For those engaged in divorce proceedings without an independent stream of income, the speed at which funds can be deposited into a bank account may make the difference between paying the mortgage and falling behind on disbursing debt.

An obvious source of funds that can be accessed is located in a retirement portfolio. As we have mentioned in a previous post, funds from a retirement account can be divided without incurring taxes if the appropriate steps are taken. Ignoring protocol can lead to losing half of the saved assets to assessed penalties.

In filing for a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), individuals can receive a portion of their ex's pension, 401(k) or other retirement savings. While the time lapse between filing the QDRO and obtaining the funds can be minimal, according to a legal timeline, ignorance of the procedure can lengthen the time for asset distribution.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when engaging in the QDRO process:

1. Familiarize yourself with QDRO guidelines for the retirement plan.

In requesting for funds to be transferred, you or your representative will need to contact the administrator of the account. Investment companies may have different policies governing the process, and administrators may be sticklers in enforcing them. A generic request for the transfer of assets may not meet their expectations, resulting in a postponed payout.

2. Monitor statements.

Even if your wages have not contributed to growing a nest egg, you are still entitled to receive a portion of the funds as well as an account statement. As it is prudent to monitor joint saving accounts or credit card bills for suspicious purchases during a divorce, it is also wise to review retirement account statements. Withdrawals made by the employed spouse may be reimbursed to the spouse who is not employed.

3. Present the QDRO in a timely fashion.

In high asset or acrimonious divorces, the employed spouse will not be incentivized to lessen his or her funds even if it means providing what is fair. As with other agreements made during a divorce, it may difficult to enforce this contract if it does not receive court approval. If the QDRO is on the books alongside the divorce decree, spouses have a stronger case for obtaining funds than those who delay in filing their QDRO.

While establishing the groundwork for a QDRO requires time and effort, there are many long-term benefits in acquiring these assets. Those interested in filing a QDRO are encouraged to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable attorney to develop a strategy.

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