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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

Q&A: Domestic Relations Orders

Answers are provided by Darren J. Goodman, Esq. of QDRO Prep

Use of QDROs to Pay Off Debts Owed By Participant Spouse

(Posted October 13, 1999)

Question 3: My divorce decree provides that I have no interest in my former spouse's defined contribution plan (a profit sharing/401(k) plan). My former spouse is delinquent with respect to an obligation owed to me under the divorce decree. Can a QDRO be used to recoup this delinquent obligation?

Answer: If the plan receives an order that conforms to the ERISA requirements for QDROs and the Plan's internal guidelines and is signed by the parties and the court, then the plan must honor the QDRO. Keep in mind that a QDRO is any order made pursuant to state domestic relations law.

Your question is actually one of state family law - specifically, the amount of discretion that family law judges in your jurisdiction are permitted to exercise in post-judgment enforcement matters. Consequently, I recommend that you consult your state's family law statutes to determine whether family law judges are conferred broad authority in issuing orders to satisfy post-judgment debts owed by one spouse to the other.
If the judges in your state have broad discretion, it appears that a QDRO could be used to satisfy your former spouse's obligation.

Important notice:

Answers are provided as general guidance on the subjects covered in the question and are not provided as legal advice to the questioner or to readers. Any legal issues should be reviewed by your legal counsel to apply the law to the particular facts of this and similar situations.

The law in this area changes frequently. Answers are believed to be correct as of the posting dates shown. The completeness or accuracy of a particular answer may be affected by changes in the law (statutes, regulations, rulings, court decisions, etc.) that occur after the date on which a particular Q&A is posted.

Copyright 1999-2008 Darren J. Goodman
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