What is a QDRO and Why is it Important?

by Sandra Wisnewski, Director of the Mid-America Pension Rights Project

This post is part two of a series of blog posts covering pensions and their acronyms. Part one can be found here


QDRO is the acronym for, qualified domestic relations order. Without getting too bogged down with the gory details, a QDRO is a document that is generated when a divorce occurs.  A QDRO is used when one or both of the parties earned a pension through a private employer during the marriage.  A pension is considered an asset of the parties. The employee who earned the pension is referred to as the participant.  The spouse of the employee is referred to as the alternate payee.

The QDRO reflects the Judgment of Divorce and its purpose is to split the earned pension.  Usually, without a QDRO the pension will only be payable to the participant.  QDROs should be generated by an attorney or a QDRO specialist.  Once the QDRO is generated, it must be signed by the judge and approved or qualified by the company.  Until it is determined to be qualified, the document is referred to as a DRO, domestic relations order. The QDRO is then submitted to the company’s pension plan.  This document is then used as instructions for how the monies will be distributed to the parties.

We enjoy speaking to every person who contacts the Project, and want to dedicate this series to those with inquiring minds. Thanks to all the clients who we’ve had the privilege of assisting throughout the past seventeen years!

The Pension Project  is funded by the Federal government through a grant provided by the Administration for Community Living, and is a program of Elder Law of Michigan, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Since the program began in 1998, the Pension Project has assisted over 11,000 clients and has recovered over 50 million dollars in pension benefits.  The Pension Project assists clients in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. For more information, visit www.mid-americapensions.org.

If you need help with or information about your pension or 401(k) benefit, please call the Mid-America Pension Rights Project at 866-735-7737 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.

1661084Sandra A. Wisnewski is the Director of Legal Services, and has been a staff member of Elder Law since 2010. Sandra earned her Bachelor of Arts from Siena Heights University in applied science in electronic engineering technology, and graduated with her Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan.

Before coming to Elder Law, Sandra devoted her time as a volunteer at the Legal Services of South Central Michigan. As a volunteer, she answered hotline questions and advised clients on various legal issues. In 2009, Sandra started her own general practice, Wisnewski Law Firm, P.L.L.C. in Stockbridge, Michigan where she focused on family law, wills and trusts, and criminal law.

Leave a Reply