Four Steps of the QDRO Approval Process
A QDRO is much more than a document . . . It's a process.
If you prepare a QDRO but don't walk it through the 4 steps of the approval process, you might as well not prepare the QDRO at all. Neither approach will work. It doesn't matter whether you're a lawyer working on the closing documents after a divorce or you're a non-lawyer trying to do your own QDRO, you must take these 4 steps to reach the finish line.
- Step 1 - Prepare the QDRO
We maintain a very large library of retirement plan documents, summary plan descriptions, QDRO approval procedures, and model QDROs for thousands of retirement plans. And the library grows daily.
We use these documents and the information you supply us to prepare your QDRO in compliance with Texas law, federal law, and the specific provisions of the retirement plan.
- Step 2 - Submit an unsigned draft copy of the QDRO to the Plan Administrator for pre-approval
This step is optional. And not all Plan Administrators will pre-approve a QDRO. But if the Plan Administrator offers this service, you should take advantage of it. If they pre-approve the QDRO, you can be sure they will approve it after the Judge signs it. If they reject the QDRO, they'll tell you exactly why they rejected it. We can then revise the QDRO to satisfy them (at no additional charge), and still protect your client's rights, before you take it to the Judge.
Requesting pre-approval of a draft QDRO may also prevent theft of your client's funds. Many Plan Administrators will place a hold on the funds in the account when they receive a draft QDRO. And the funds will remain frozen until a completed QDRO, signed by the Judge, is received.
The version of the QDRO that you send to the Plan Administrator for pre-approval should have the Addendum attached to it. They will need the information on the Addendum to review the QDRO.
You should know that many Plan Administrators take 30 to 60 days to review your QDRO. Even if you go to court before the Plan Administrator responds, it is probably wise to submit the QDRO for pre-approval anyway to request that a hold be immediately placed on the funds.
- Step 3 - Present the QDRO to the court for approval
In Texas, the court that granted the divorce retains continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to render a QDRO.
The best practice is to present the QDRO to the Court at the same time you present the Divorce Decree. If you submit the QDRO to the Court after the Decree has been entered, Section 9.102 of the Texas Family Code provides a specific procedure that you must follow to submit the QDRO to the Court. Failure to follow the Section 9.102 procedure will likely cause the QDRO to be void.
Make sure the Addendum IS NOT attached to the QDRO when you present it to the Judge. If it is, your personal information, including social security numbers, may become available to the public.
The Hernsberger Law Firm does not provide support for this step of the QDRO approval process to non-law firm personnel. Nor do we provide coaching services on how to complete this step. If you don't know how to present the QDRO to the Court for approval, you should consult a local attorney.
- Step 4 - Present a certified copy of the signed QDRO to the Plan Administrator for approval
When we prepare the QDRO, we will supply you with the mailing address of the Plan Administrator.
After the Judge signs the QDRO, it will be filed with the District Clerk. You should request a certified copy of the signed QDRO from the District Clerk and mail it to the Plan Administrator at the address we have supplied you.
Before you mail the certified copy of the QDRO, be sure to attach the Addendum to it. The Plan Administrator will not be able to process the QDRO without the information contained in the Addendum.
As a general rule, expect the Plan Administrator to act on your QDRO within 4 to 6 weeks.