Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

How QDRO Protects Your Retirement Assets in Divorce

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) specialist Denisa Tova explains how QDRO protects your retirement assets in divorce and risks of not getting one prepared.

Almost all retirement plans, except for IRAs, have to be “divided” by a QDRO to avoid taxation when they are divided in divorce. That is because the IRS recognizes QDRO as a vehicle to transfer retirement plan assets between divorced spouse tax free. So if you have a retirement plan such as a 401(k), 403(b), TSP, FERS/CSRS pension, 457 deferred compensation plan, PERA, military pension or pretty much any type of a retirement plan, other than an IRA, you need a QDRO or a QDRO like document done. QDRO is a document which is prepared by a qualified QDRO specialist. It does not have to be an attorney and most attorney won’t prepare one. It is a highly specialized area that requires understanding of the nuances of the retirement plans.


The QDRO process, from the time the QDRO document is drafted, certified by the Court and served unto the plan, can take months. That means that if you are the former spouse who is entitled to receive the retirement funds, you will have to wait the same time. Denisa Tova, CFP, CDFA, a QDRO expert who frequently lectures nationwide and internationally on the topic of QDROs to attorneys and various Law Bar Associations, cautions: “I’ve seen over and over nightmare scenarios where the plan owner has either died or retired and never elected the former spouse as a survivor beneficiary, before a QDRO was prepared, and the former spouse lost her share of the retirement plan.

In the best case scenario, I see this weekly where not getting the QDRO prepared right away, leads to undesired outcomes such as further litigation. As soon as you have a settlement agreement around the division of the retirement assets, reach out to the QDRO specialist and start the process.

Denisa Tova, CFP, CDFA, is a mediator, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and a Retirement Valuation and QDRO expert. She prepares QDROs or QDRO-like instruments to divide ALL retirement plans. Divorce attorneys consult with Denisa on a settlement language to make sure it meets the provisions of the retirement plan so that the QDRO can be prepared without any set backs. She offers her QDRO services nationwide and has been also involved in international divorces. She frequently lectures nationwide and internationally on the topic of QDROs to attorneys and various Law Bar Associations.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order – Wikipedia