Some lawyers are just lazy. That is a fact. Others know they aren’t doing what they know is in the best interests of their clients. Nowhere do we see this more than with family law attorneys, specifically when it comes to getting pensions or 401k’s of your spouse.
When you get divorced in Illinois, it’s your attorney’s job to take care of EVERY issue that the case involves. It’s not just dividing up property or dealing with child custody. If either spouse had a pension, 401k or other retirement account during the marriage, that is a marital asset. Approximately half of what was earned during the marriage is owed to each spouse.
It’s not as simple as agreeing to that to make it happen. There is a formula that needs to be worked up. It takes some time, isn’t fun and for whatever reason, many lawyers choose not to do it. As a result we get a lot of calls from divorced people who need to address retirement account issues.
These callers need a QILDRO or a QDRO. A QILDRO is short for Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Orders. It applies to public workers such as teachers, City of Chicago employees, etc. It is a court order that directs the pension fund to pay a former spouse or other dependent, all or a portion of a member’s retirement benefit or a lump sum death benefit. A QILDRO is usually issued at the time of divorce and sent to the member’s retirement system where it is recorded and retained until the member applies for a refund, retirement benefit, or dies. Or in many cases it’s not done during the divorce and another attorney has to step in and do it.
A QDRO is short for qualified domestic relief order. It’s similar to a QILDRO but is used for 401k’s, IRA’s and other retirement accounts. By using this process it allows each spouse to retain the deferred tax benefits of the plan. Nobody automatically gets a QDRO. You have to ask the Judge for it and then file the QDRO form which asks for a right to a portion of the account.
It’s best to file these forms during the divorce or as soon as possible so your ex doesn’t empty the account. If it’s not done during the divorce, you likely will have to petition to re-open the case. When that happens, the laziness of your original attorney ends up costing you more money than you would have spent had they just done their job correctly in the first place.
The reality is that many law firms won’t finish the job that other law firms started. If you are getting a divorce, raise this issue with your attorney before you hire them. If they say they don’t do QDRO’s or QILDROS, don’t hire them. If you need to find a lawyer who will handle these forms and do a good job for you, call us at 312-346-5320 to speak with an experienced attorney for free.