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Required signatures on a QDRO


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I have a question for you QDRO experts out there:

The following excerpt is from a news blurb on benefitslink today.

"This case involved a divorce that occurred in June 2000. In November 2000, an order was entered granting the wife, Mrs. Singleton, an interest in her husband's two pensions, and designating her as the surviving spouse for his retirement benefits. However, when Mrs. Singleton (or more likely, her attorney) presented the two domestic relations orders to the plan administrator in February 2001, the copies presented were not signed by the parties, the judge, or the attorneys. The plan administrator notified her that the orders would be qualified (in other words, that they met all the requirements for a QDRO) if they were properly signed. Mrs. Singleton did not respond."

My question is this - I find nothing in ERISA which requires the signatures of the parties involved. However, a state authority must issue a judgement, order, decree, or otherwise approve a property settlement agreement before it can be considered a "domestic relations order" under ERISA. Can a plan administrator require both parties to sign before considering it a QDRO? Or maybe if the state of domicile requires both parties to sign in order for it to be a "DRO" then no judge would approve it in the first place if unsigned... This is one more reason why we always require the client to consult their legal counsel as to the validity of a QDRO!

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I thought a plan could recongize a DRO only if it is a QDRO. Since a QDRO (or DRO) is "real" only if issued by a court (I think), then a draft DRO does not meet that condition.

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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