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Retirement benefits are generally non-assignable. This means that a retirement plan cannot pay the benefit to anyone other than the employee. For most retirement plans, there is an exception. If a judge signs a QDRO (or similar court order) in a domestic relations case, and if that QDRO is approved by the Plan, benefits can be paid to someone other than the employee (like a former spouse).
Yes. For most employer-sponsored retirement, the payment of benefits to someone other than the employee does require a QDRO.
Taking a cash distribution of retirement can result in a significant tax liability. The owner of the retirement incurs the tax liability. The purpose of a QDRO is to transfer ownership (and the tax liability) to someone other than the employee.
Many plans provide a model QDRO. Some models are written in a way to protect the employee. Others are written in a way to make the transfer easier for the plan. Unless you are an experienced attorney in these matters, it is not advisable to simply use the model provided by the plan. The time and cost to “fix” a poorly drafted QDRO or one with unintended results, can be exponential.
No. Some retirement plans are strictly non-divisible, regardless of any state court order.
No. An IRA does not require a QDRO under the federal law. However, on rare occasion the financial institution will refuse to transfer funds without a QDRO on file. If that’s the case, it is usually more efficient to simply prepare the QDRO than debate the point with their legal department.
It depends on the kind of retirement in question. Many retirement plans do allow a QDRO for child support payments.