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Is there such a thing as "almost" Qualifed DRO

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DRO submitted to Grumman April 2009.  May 2009, DRO almost accepted by Grumman :).  The rejection letter states: Upon review, it has been determined that the order against the Pension Plan would meet the requirements of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order once the following modification has been made: Section 1 (c)- The correct name of the Plan is Northrop Grumman Pension Plan. Please make the modification  accordingly. 

January 2010, a DRO with the corrected pension plan name was signed by the courts, filed, and sent certified to the PA. No further correspondence exists.

The DRO was separate interest; awarding the benefits to the AP as my sole and separate property.

The current PA, Fidelity took over administration of the Grumman Pension in 2017 and has no record of any paperwork of any kind relating to divorce, DRO, QDRO.  The closest that they were able to find was a PDF attachment to the benefits called QDRO but when they click on it, they get file not found.  They have informed me the benefits were never separated. 

Fidelity has been given all the documents that I had. I don't think that I have filed a formal claim. I have a Fidelity-Issued Reference Number dated 3mths ago the start of my 'inquiry" .  Calls to Fidelity result in lots of conversations, everyone has been quite nice without ever giving me any information. They say there were delays due to not being able to reach the Participant to verify the information. Delays due to COVID and getting copies of the original documents filed with the county.  delays with the issue being reviewed by employer/sponsor. Etc… Etc…  Will they eventually have to tell me what is going to happen?  Can this just drag out forever? Is there a formal process that I have to follow to get them to give me a determination?

In 2007 as part of the bifurcated divorce action, the pension was listed in assets with a value of $1.2mil, so it wasn't a tiny account.  I understand given that the plan was never separated, I have obstacles beyond the DRO qualification (IE: Fidelity says privacy laws won't let them tell me if the plan is now in 'pay' status which could create insurmountable problems for my 'separate interest') but no sense going into them if there is no QDRO.  

Bottom Line: Like many other people that have posted here, I am hoping that my case is unique and that my DRO is a QDRO even without the Qualification letter.  Yeah, stupid, I know.  All my plans for how to survive were based on those monies.  

Getting a lawyer and going to court are problematic. I am still a US citizen, I live abroad, severely disabled. There is no possibility of my getting back to the States.  Just trying to get a read on a scale of 1 to 10, how screwed am I.  Thank you for your consideration.  This forum provides more clear and unambiguous information on QDROs than the whole rest of the internet combined.

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I am sure others will chime in, but you seem like you did what you needed to do, but you will likely need an US based attorney to represent you.  Does Grumman still exist?  Just because Fidelity is acting as plan administrator doesn't absolve Grumman from responsibility.  It appears you did everything that was required, but Fidelity just doesn't have the records.

You should ask Fidelity for a copy of Grumman's QDRO policy.  Typically even the hint of a QDRO is enough to cause the PA to stop any payments that might be allocated to you.  IOW, if the benefit is in pay status - your information to Fidelity should cause them to at least escrow "your" portion going forward until things are resolved.  Also, if the participant commenced retirement payments, he was likely legally obligated to inform Fidelity/Grumman that a QDRO existed.  If he didn't, you will need to sue him for your portion of the value of the payments he received.  The participant might also be guilty of fraud.

If payments have not commenced, and regarding future payments if they have, you should be in a good spot, but you will need to continue to work with Fidelity and/or go to Grumman directly.   They may just kick you back to Fidelity, but the squeaky wheel gets attention.


The material provided and the opinions expressed in this post are for general informational purposes only and should not be used or relied upon as the basis for any action or inaction. You should obtain appropriate tax, legal, or other professional advice.

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You absolutely need an attorney. The sooner you recognize that and act accordingly the better off you'll be. From where I sit, it looks like your side fumbled the football sometime after January 2010 when no follow-up was made to ensure the qdro was approved. An attorney will vociferously argue that the almost approved qdro rejection letter gave a clear path to approval of the January 2010 document. Then you need to Hope that somebody will recognize receipt of the document you sent certified mail. There are many twists and turns that this could take so please get to an attorney as soon as possible.

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It seems you had an attorney in/around 2010 handling this matter?  Contact that attorney.

Contact the employer that sponsors the plan.   They need to know or be reminded there is a QDRO.  Fidelity works for the employer and will act more quickly if instructed by them.   

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I assume you have evidence of having sent the revised QDRO with the correct name of the Plan to the N/G Plan Administrator.   You should have received a "Determination" letter of some sort from the Plan Administrator and N/G should have a copy of that letter even if Fidelity does not.   

I also assume that N/G was handling its own QDROs and did not at that time have a third party administrator ("TPA") like Fidelity.  Here is a form of Model QDRO they sent to me for a 2010 case (when AON was the TPA), but it's dated January, 2006.  I don't know if this will be helpful.  Northup Grumann QDRO.pdf

AON was also known as AON Hewitt, but they no longer exist and were taken over my Alight Solutions.    This is the website where I access their QDRO Center - https://beplb08.alight.com/qoc/b/QdroOvrw010QdroOvrw.htm, but they have contact information here - https://beplb08.alight.com/qoc/b/CsCntcUs010CntcUs.htm.  Maybe they have the information you need. 

The law requires the Plan Administrator, or the TPA acting on behalf of the Plan Administrator, to made a determination within 18 months after receipt, of whether or not the QDRO is qualified.  Take a look at the attached DOL, ESBA booklet,  Chapter 2.  DOL re QDROs.pdf

I am not sure about the remedy iif that 18 month requirement is not met, so everyone is correct that you need to hire an attorney.   

A few things you can tell you attorney to keep in mind.  29 USC Section 1132(g), 28 USC Section 1927, deal with an award of legal fees against the Plans, and the Supreme Court case of Chambers v. Nasco,Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44–46 (1991) outlines the court's inherent power to assess attorney fees especially when a party is litigating in bad faith. You can find this case at - https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12894484016394117131&q=chambers+v.+nasco,+inc.&hl=en&as_sdt=20000003

Good luck. 



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LookingFORhelp, there's no deadline for serving a QDRO. If the money is still in the account, just send it again. If the money's gone, then heaven help you, although even then I would not give up hope if you have sufficient funds for a lawyer and private investigator.

Either way, as Mike Preston stated, you need a U.S. lawyer.

Luke Bailey

Senior Counsel

Clark Hill PLC

214-651-4572 (O) | LBailey@clarkhill.com

2600 Dallas Parkway Suite 600

Frisco, TX 75034

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One more note. 

In most states a QDRO is an enforcement tool, like a garnishment or an attachment, and is designed to enforce an order of the court, usually the Judgment of Absolute Divorce ("JAD") that may or may not incorporate a written Agreement of the parties.  The order of court to be enforced by a QDRO is an award to the Alternate Payee of a share of the Participant's pension or retirement benefits.  The foundational document creating the obligation is the JAD and/or the Agreement of the parties incorporated into the JAD, not the QDRO.  

Whether or not collection of the Alternate Payee's share can be achieved with a QDRO, for example, in a case where the Participant quits his job and pulls out all of the money in his 401(k), the Participant's obligation still exists.  It just has to be collected by means other than from the Plan Sponsor.  Houses, cars, investment accounts, bank accounts, wage attachments, are still means to that ultimate end.  

One thing that I have found helpful is to send a simple Notice of Adverse Claim - Interest to the Plan Administrator as soon as the Agreement if signed, or if there is no Agreement, as soon as the Judge has entered the JAD.   See the attached examples.  Flesh it out as much as you want.  Does it have any legal significance?  Probably not.  But Plan Administrators don't want to find themselves entangled in law suits and generally put a hold on the Participant's Plan benefits for a reasonable period of time.    


Notice of Adverse Claim- Interest Cover Letter.pdf Notice of Adverse Claim-Interest.pdf

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  • 2 weeks later...

UPDATE:  Grumman DRO


Case Summary:  2010 DRO signed by the courts, return receipt from Employer that they received it.  No Qualification Letter, no denial of DRO either.  2021 inquiry to PA results in discovery that benefits were never separated (more details in 1st post).

  1. Attempted over the last 3mths to contact my original attorney.  The last message from last week: "Don't call me, again"... 
  2. I have retained a new attorney, faxed him all my paperwork.   He feels confident that I should be able to get my QDRO and has given me the same advice as on here. But feels it would be a waste of my money to get involved until there is a 'determination'. 
  3. I have contacted Northrup née Grumman.  They were very polite and so sorry that I am going through all this.  The pension pre-dates their acquisition of Grumman, so they said it will take time to find all the paperwork.  Subsequent phone calls: They are looking into it.  
  4. I talked to Fidelity on a regular basis.  They have been very polite and so sorry that I am going through all this.  They assure me that they 'working' on it.  My case has been forwarded for QDRO calculation and if there are no obstacles, they 'expect' that my "QDRO Calculation Kit" will be in the mail in the next week.  That and a nickel does not give me a warm & fuzzy as they said that last week.  The Fidelity people I talk to can only read the electronic notes that are attached to my case file. The notes have not been updated in over 3 weeks.  There doesn't seem to be anyone that can tell me what actual steps they have taken so far, if any.

So this update is just to say that there is no update.  Everyone is ever so gracious and polite and saying all the right things while still telling me nothing.  Fidelity asks that I only call once per week because they won't have any information any sooner.  So I will continue to squeak weekly.  I am assuming that I will get a "QDRO Calculation Kit" or they will have to, eventually, tell me that I am not going to get what I was awarded.  

Thank you for all the replies.  fmsinc, thanks for all your info.  All the paperwork between the courts and lawyers was directly with the Grumman Pension Center in New Jersey so I assumed no PA existed.  But it can't hurt to reach out to Aon Hewitt and Alight to see if they have any information.

This forum is a great resource.  If anything changes, I will come back w/ an update.

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  • 1 month later...

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