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QDRO information responsibility


Guest jmd8800
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Guest jmd8800

I am new and not a benefits professional. I'm just kind of stuck and need some guidance.

I am retiring and I have 2 distinctly seperate pension plans however they are under the same union. One is in California one is in Ohio. CA pension people have distributed my pension without a QDRO (they mailed my exwife for her to establish a claim against my pension). OH wants a QDRO. I am having a service prepare one.

I am not in contact with my ex wife. The divorce was granted in 06/1990 and the mop up was a few months later. The last entries on the court registry are concerning joinders for pension.

I am not in contact with my exwife and have not been for many years. The QDRO preparation people want me to supply her address and Social Security number. Am I required to do this?

It would seem to me that the pension people would have her SS# simply because she was a part of all my union trust funds for a period of time.

Thanks in advance

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Are you sure a valid QDRO wasn't filed in 1990? The reason I ask is I find it hard to believe that the CA pension fund would make payment to ex-wife w/o a valid QDRO.

But yes for a valid QDRO the address (or last know address at least) and SSN of alternate payee are requirements. If you are getting QDRO now some 24 years later, you're probably going to have to have some contact with the ex-wife as I think the Plan is going to want her signature on the DRO. But I'm not a DRO expert, I know just enough to be dangerous sometimes.

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CA pension people have distributed my pension without a QDRO

A pension plan cannot distribute a participant's benefits to an alternate payee without QDRO. There has to be QDRO.

Before you pay for your own DRO, ask the CA pension people for a copy of the QDRO they have. Explain that you need it for OH.

and what Lou S. said, although the ex-wife may not have to sign it. A judge has to sign the DRO, and the judge may want input from the ex-wife.

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While address and SSN are required information, putting them in a public document like a QDRO is an unwise action.

It's pretty simple to communicate that information in a letter. Everyone deserves privacy.

I'm a retirement actuary. Nothing about my comments is intended or should be construed as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. Occasionally, but not all the time, it might be reasonable to interpret my comments as actuarial or consulting advice.

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It is possible for the CA pension to have begun distributions to the participnt without a QDRO. In fact, the plan had to begin on time unless it had a domestic relations order. I think the responses are too specfic given the uncertainty about the facts. I could come up with an entirely different explanation, but it woud involve the same degree of speculation that the other views engaged in.

I can say for sure that a social security number is NOT a requirement for qualification and neither is a birth date. The Plan can and will require both for determining and paying a benefit, but that information is not required to be in the order and is not required to be given before the order is determined to be qualified. The Plan may assert otherwise, but it would be wrong. Usually it does not pay to fight the Plan about formalities like that. Under some circumstances date of birth is not necessary at all.

Prudence about identity acknowledged, the AP's address (not "last known address" by the way) still must be stated in the order for qualfication. Some courts have procedures for protecting the address from public disclosure.

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You were divorced 24 years ago. It sounds like there is no QDRO with respect to either of your plan interests. What is it that makes you think that you need a QDRO or that a court would even entertain the notion of entering a QDRO 24 years after the fact? You may have a property settlement or divorce decree that says you must pay x% of your pensions to your ex-spouse, but that doesn't mean that you need or can get a QDRO. Maybe that was done intentionally so that the tax liability on your full pensions would be your tax liability (i.e., perhaps your lawyer got snookered by your spouse's lawyer). What you do need at this time is personal legal advice, not from a message board.

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Guest jmd8800

To answer some questions posed here:

CA pension people say they do not have a QDRO. I did receive a letter saying the CA pension people sent notice to my ex wife and should she care to claim her portion of the pension she should contact an attorney and file the appropiate papers. That is the jist of it anyway. I just received a confirmation letter that my pension from CA is approved and will be distributed. There was no mention of payments to my exwife.

In the marital settlement agreement we spilt my pension under community property. (no percentages are named so I am guessing the 50/50 default) Both pension plans are mentioned in the MSA.

The process being described by OH pension people is straightforward. Create QDRO, approve it with pension people, file with court, notify ex etc etc. The OH pension people even put their requested format online as a guide. They are clear they will not distribute any pension money wiithout a QDRO.

As to whether or not a QDRO was ever filed, I have a registry of all paperwork filed in this case. There is no mention of a QDRO by name, but the last few papers listed are about joining the pensions. This is so old it is on microfische.

I did hire a paralegal service to write the QDRO. They want me to supply Name, adress, DOB and SS# because this information is required by the OH pension people in their sample QDRO. It seems to me I could be openning a can of worms doing this myself. So they suggested a locater service.

I was to retire 2 months ago. But in light of learning this situation I delayed it until Aug 1. At present I will getting 55% of the pension money (CA) pending the resolve of this issue. Hopefully it will be done by Christmas! I believe the payments will be retroactive.

Thanks for the advice

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Does dropping a dime to the ex-spouse represent fulfillment of fiduciary obligations or a violation of them? The plan administrator is required to follow the terms of a QDRO but wouldn't the plan administrator's duty otherwise be solely to the plan participant? Just wondering if any of the practitioners have views on this question.

Always check with your actuary first!

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Guest jmd8800

Originally this was my question: What is my responsibility in providing name address date of birth and SS#?

The pension people require that I supply this information. The QDRO people need it to comply with the OH pension people.

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Is initiating action to get a QDRO established consistent with the plan administator's fiduciary duties or should the plan administrator presume that the participant will receive the entire benefit until and unless presented with a court order (or at least a communication from the ex-spouse to hold off on paying)? Isn't the default action (even in California and other community property states) to just pay the participant unless the plan administrator is put on notice not to do that? Wouldn't the plan administrator have no duty to the ex-spouse until the ex-spouse has been named as an alternate payee or at least started to take action to become an alternate payee? Sorry if I did not make it clear that that is what I was asking.

Always check with your actuary first!

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A plan administrator has fiduciary duties generally with respect to participants and to a more limited extent to beneficiaries.

Law relating to QDROs has some specific aspects that affect the more general duties. The law specifies that the administrator is required to do certain things when a domestic relations order is received -- that is another matter that I will not address but that might explain the poster's California employer situation. Until a domestic relations order is received, it is business as usual for administration. Among other things, that means that the administrator may not interfere with the participant's exercise of rights. For example, that means that if the plan administrator knows the participant is divorced, no delay or fooling around with respect to distributions on speculation that there might be a domestic relations order that has not appeared or that one might be prepared some day. However, the plan administrator is required to follow plan terms and procedures, so if the Administrator is dumb enough to have QDRO procedures that impose obligations with respect to some kind of notice about a possible domestic relations order, the Administrator may have to follow the procedures and delay or restrict distributions or loans or ???

The Department of Labor's view on the subject is contrary to the statute and the case law. The DOL informally maintains that a fiduciary has obligations to a would-be alternate payee if the fiduciary has notice (whatever that means -- a note taped to the mirror in the ladies room?) that a domestic relations order may be forthcoming.

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