About once a week, we get a phone call from someone who is divorced and needs a qualified domestic relief order (QDRO) completed. In plain English, it’s a legal document that divides up retirement funds between the two spouses. It essentially gives you your share of a 401k for the amount that was accumulated during a marriage.
Even if a spouse isn’t retiring when you get divorced, a QDRO can be completed and entered into court when you get divorced. And it should be completed then. It’s a lot of paperwork and if you don’t know what you are doing it can be complicated. So even though it should be done during the divorce, a lot of lazy Illinois divorce attorneys simply aren’t doing it.
Typically a QDRO is filed by the spouse not on the benefits. So if you are a husband whose wife gets a 401k through her work, you’d want to file it. If you are a wife whose husband has a 401k, then the burden would be on you.
Why so many divorce attorneys don’t do their job is beyond me. I think it’s because so many lawyers who take on divorces don’t actually handle cases that are beyond simple. They likely handle divorce and traffic and car accidents and write wills and do almost anything that comes through the door.
What ends up happening is years later you have to hire a different lawyer to finish the job. That will cost you more money than it should.
Now some may say that it’s not a big deal, they’ll deal with it when they have to. But there are a couple of problems with that:
- You risk your ex bleeding those funds dry without a court order. That could literally cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Most real family law and divorce attorneys don’t want to do QDRO’s if it’s not a case they are handling for an existing client. They know that it’s something the first attorney should have done and because they aren’t really enjoyable, a lot of them just refuse to clean up someone else’s mess.
The good news is that we do know some very good attorneys who will do this work. It can be frustrating for you as you will have to shell out money to get money that you are entitled to. But when your first attorney didn’t do the job (or you went without a lawyer and didn’t have a QDRO done), you really have no choice.
If you are in the Chicago area and want help getting a QDRO completed, entered and approved by the Courts, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.