A Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, is a legal order that is obtained when getting a separation or divorce that changes ownership or rights to certain retirement benefits. This gives the divorced spouse a divisional share of the pension plan even though earned entirely by the other spouse. QDROs grant an alternate payee (a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent individual) access to an equal or fair share of a pension plan. They may also provide for the division of marital property as well as child support or alimony. This document may appear as either a part of the divorce agreement or in a separate document apart from the divorce decree.
These orders may only apply to pensions that fall under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which governs strictly private sector pensions. Those with federal civil service retirement plans, State, local or municipal plans, or military pensions must seek a separate type of order.
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