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Bexar County Wife Recovered $1,278 Per Month From Pension

Posted by William Hernsberger | Apr 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

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Pamela Bishop divorced a tormented, physically abusive husband. Now, she and her children are safe. That's a good thing.

Her San Antonio divorce lawyer convinced the Judge to award her 60% of her husband's pension. She slept better at night knowing there would be a little security when she hit retirement age.

He never prepared a QDRO for the pension! 

Or so she thought.

Sadly, Pamela was never going to see that money. Her lawyer closed his file when the Judge signed the Decree. He never prepared the pension QDRO.

Malpractice for the lawyer . . . Financial ruin for Pamela . . .

The Goals

  • Enable Pamela Bishop to receive a monthly benefit from her ex-husband's pension (for the rest of her life) when he retired, or earlier if Pamela elected to begin receiving benefits before her ex-husband retired.

The Approach

Fortunately, Pamela's ex-husband had not retired or tampered with the retirement. The solution was to prepare the QDRO and have it signed and approved ASAP.

We handled every step of the QDRO Approval Process for Pamela. She was not required to do anything, except approve the QDRO, throughout the entire process.

  • We prepared the QDRO in accordance with Texas law, federal law (ERISA), and the specific requirements of the pension plan. The terms of the QDRO were identical to the terms of division contained in the Divorce Decree.
  • We filed a Petition in the same court that granted the Divorce asking the Judge to sign the QDRO in compliance with Texas Family Code, section 9.102.
  • We caused Pamela's ex-husband to be served with citation in compliance with Texas Family Code, section 9.102.
  • Fortunately, Pamela's ex-husband agreed to cooperate and willingly signed the QDRO.
  • We set a hearing on our request for Entry of the QDRO, and appeared on behalf of Pamela at the hearing. Pamela was not required to attend.
  • The Judge signed the QDRO and the original was filed with the District Clerk.
  • We obtained a certified copy of the QDRO from the District Clerk and mailed it to the Plan Administrator for approval.
  • Approximately five weeks later, the Plan Administrator sent Pamela a letter approving the QDRO and explaining her rights to distribution of the funds when her ex-husband retired or turned 65.

The Results

  • Pamela Bishop was properly placed in legal position to receive a monthly benefit from her ex-husband's pension for the rest of her life. If Pamela waits until her ex-husband turns 65, it is estimated that she will receive $1,278 per month in today's dollars.
  • We considered the idea of approaching Pamela's divorce lawyer. In the end, we decided not to. It's true that he should have prepared and submitted the QDRO to the Plan Administrator at the time of divorce. His failure to do so meets the classic definition of professional negligence. However, Pamela did not suffer significant financial damages as a result of her attorney's negligence. Her husband has not yet retired and is not age 55. Since Pamela is not entitled to receive any monthly benefits yet, she has not missed any monthly benefits.
  • Pamela's total cost for fixing her QDRO problem was $1,500 plus court costs for filing the Petition and having her ex-husband served. That's only a little more than one monthly benefit she will receive.
  • HernsbergerLaw fixed the divorce attorney's mistake before Pamela suffered any damages. That's good for Pamela . . . and good for Pamela's divorce lawyer (and he never knew).

Do you have a retirement or QDRO problem? Contact us. Maybe we can help you like we helped Pamela.

About the Author

William Hernsberger

Judge Hernsberger has practiced family law in Texas for over 30 years as a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law and Judge of the Family Court in El Paso, Texas. He has tried dozens of jury trials to verdict, thousands of bench trials to verdict, mediated hundreds of family law disputes, and a...

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