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Potential Liablity related to Address Sharing?


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Hi, Everyone,

I recently purchased a house from a divorcing couple. Their real estate agent gave me their respective forwarding addresses, but let me know that the ex-wife does not want the ex-husband to know where she is living now. I was requested not to share her address with anyone. I don't know the details in this case, but I imagine that, in cases where domestic abuse was involved, ex-spouses may have good reason to want to protect the confidentiality of their new address.

That got me thinking about the QDRO Process that many of my clients use.

As counsel to the Plan Administrator, I usually draft letters announcing the determination result of the QDRO review process. The letter is then sent out by the Plan Administrator on the Plan Administrator's letterhead.

The home address of both the Participant and the Alternate Payee is standardly included in the determination letter.

Have any of you ever experienced any problems or complaints as a result of including both addresses in a determination letter? In other words, are any of you aware of an instance in which an ex-spouse may have obtained their former spouse's address FROM the determinaiton letter, and thereafter caused problems for the other spouse? Would a plan administrator face any liability in such a situation?

Of couse, the law requires the QDRO itself to contain both addresses. So if either part reads the QDRO, the addresses are shared.

Has anyone ever tried, putting a statement in the written QDRO procedure stating that both addresses will be included in the determination letter UNLESS either the Participant OR Alternate payee opts to receive separate mailings?

I appreciate any feedback on this topic!

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I had this come up kind of sort of. Told the atty to have client get PO Box. Was not going to get in the middle of domestic dispute.

Don't think I would change my QDRO policy or process to include what you suggest.

JanetM CPA, MBA

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MBozek:

Your point is well-taken; there is additional cost asscociated with having a mailbox.

Maybe I'm reading to much into JanetM's response, but I got the impression that the subtext message was that if the AP is worried about the ex-spouse finding out where the AP resides, then the AP is safer if all mail is sent to a post office box. Given the ability to get information legally and illegally online, I think that getting a post office box is sound advice (meaning that it is money well-spent) if the AP is concerned about his or her spouse discovering the new address.

Kirk Maldonado

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FYI - What we've decided to do is simply to have the determination letters mailed to each party separately, with a "cc" to the ex-spouse. This is a simple solution that avoids sharing the ex-spouses' addresses with one another, and thereby, preserves privacy.

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I'm slightly confused. If, as required by 414(p), the QDRO provides the last known address of the participant and the AP, isn't the cat out of the bag?

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jfp,

You're right, of course. The last known mailing address of the parties (or of their attorneys, as the next post notes) must appear on the QDRO. So yes, if the parties are reading the QDRO, the cat's out of the bag.

On the QDROs that I see most often, attorneys approve the QDRO as to form, and the court signs it. I don't know how often parties actually get a copy of their own QDRO (which is another interesting question).

We do not send a copy of the QDRO when we notify participant's of its qualifed status. So in our case, sending separate determination letters will not provide the ex-spouses' address. Whether they may know of it already, I guess is of less concern to me. I suppose I want to make sure that it's not ME who is letting the cat out of the bag...

And if the parties don't want their identifiable address on the QDRO, they can work that out with their attorney or with USPS.

Thanks again to everyone for the input.

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Harwood: I'm afraid I'm not grasping your point. Why would a plan administrator correspond with a participant or an AP at a mailing address other than the one in the DRO? Arguably, it is a requirement of 414(p) that the plan administrator use that address and only that address. As long as the plan administrator does that, how is he "disclosing" anything? The address of each party has already been disclosed to the other party by virtue of the fact that it's in the DRO.

Maybe it's just me; I already said I was a little confused.

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I speculate that the reason for "last known mailing address" is to ensure that the parties get any notices, especially from the Plan Administrator. I think that using their attorneys for collecting their QDRO-related mail meets the intent of 414(p) and maintains the privacy of the actual physical location of the parties.

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