FAQs

Must a domestic relations order be issued by a state court?

A domestic relations order may be issued by any state agency or instrumentality with the authority to issue judgments, decrees, or orders, or to approve property settlement agreements, pursuant to state domestic relations law (including community property law).

Reference: ERISA § 206(d)(3)(B)(ii); IRC § 414(p)(1)(B); Advisory Opinion 2001-06A.


What information must a domestic relations order contain to qualify as a QDRO under ERISA?

QDROs must contain the following information:

  • The name and last known mailing address of the participant and each alternate payee
  • The name of each plan to which the order applies
  • The dollar amount or percentage (or the method of determining the amount or percentage) of the benefit to be paid to the alternate payee
  • The number of payments or time period to which the order applies

Reference: ERISA § 206(d)(3)(C)(i)-(iv); IRC § 414(p)(2)(A)-(D)


Are there other requirements that a domestic relations order must meet to be a QDRO?

There are certain provisions that a QDRO must not contain:

  • The order must not require a plan to provide an alternate payee or participant with any type or form of benefit, or any option, not otherwise provided under the plan
  • The order must not require a plan to provide for increased benefits (determined on the basis of actuarial value)
  • The order must not require a plan to pay benefits to an alternate payee that are required to be paid to another alternate payee under another order previously determined to be a QDRO
  • The order must not require a plan to pay benefits to an alternate payee in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity for the lives of the alternate payee and his or her subsequent spouse

Reference: ERISA §§ 206(d)(3)(D)(i)-(iii), 206(d)(3)(E)(i)(III); IRC §§ 414(p)(3)(A)-(C), 414(p)(4)(A)(iii)


May a QDRO be part of the divorce decree or property settlement?

There is nothing in ERISA or the Code that requires that a QDRO (that is, the provisions that create or recognize an alternate payee's interest in a participant's retirement benefits) be issued as a separate judgment, decree, or order. Accordingly, a QDRO may be included as part of a divorce decree or court-approved property settlement, or issued as a separate order, without affecting its qualified status. The order must satisfy the requirements described above to be a QDRO.

Reference: ERISA § 206(d)(3)(B); IRC § 414(p)(1)


For more information on QDROs requirements, the US Department of Labor developed a comprehensive, accessible resource "The Division of Retirement Benefits Through Qualified Domestic Relations Orders."