what happens if a qdro is not filed

What Happens If a QDRO Is Not Filed?


Going through a divorce can be emotionally and financially challenging, even in amicable situations. When a couple has been together for a long time, they may have accumulated various assets, including retirement benefits. During the divorce process, these assets need to be divided according to their state’s marital property rights laws. One essential aspect of this division is the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which allows for the distribution of retirement benefits between divorcing spouses. In this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of QDRO and its significance during divorce proceedings.

What is a QDRO?

A QDRO, short for Qualified Domestic Relations Order, is a court order that permits an employer-sponsored retirement plan to pay benefits to an alternate payee (the non-employee spouse) instead of the employee. It is commonly used in divorce cases where one spouse is entitled to a significant portion of the other spouse’s retirement plan.

Understanding Entitlement to Retirement Benefits

There are various scenarios where one spouse may be entitled to a portion of the other spouse’s retirement plan. For example, if one spouse took a break from their career to raise children while the other contributed to a retirement account, the spouse who stayed at home could be entitled to a share of the retirement savings. Despite not directly contributing money to the account, their contribution to the marriage entitles them to a portion of the funds.

Importance of Filing a QDRO

If a QDRO is not filed during the divorce proceedings, the non-employee spouse may not receive their entitled share of the retirement benefits. Several situations can arise where benefits are forfeited if a QDRO is not in place:

  1. Spouse’s Retirement: If the employee spouse retires before the QDRO is filed, the non-employee spouse might lose their share of the retirement assets.
  2. Spouse’s Remarriage: If the employee spouse remarries before the QDRO is completed, the new spouse may claim the retirement benefits, leaving the former spouse with nothing.
  3. Spouse’s Death: In the unfortunate event of the employee spouse’s death before the QDRO is filed, the retirement funds might pass on to their heirs instead of the ex-spouse.
  4. Spouse’s Employment Changes: If the employee spouse quits, is fired, or withdraws funds from the plan before retirement, the non-employee spouse could miss out on their rightful portion.
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Timely Filing of QDRO

To safeguard your rights and benefits under your spouse’s retirement plan, it is crucial to file the QDRO as soon as possible. Many people mistakenly believe that they must finalize their divorce before filing a QDRO. However, the sooner the QDRO is completed, the better it is for securing the non-employee spouse’s entitlement.


Divorce is a challenging period, and handling financial matters can add to the stress. Understanding the significance of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is essential to ensure that both parties receive their rightful share of retirement benefits. By filing a QDRO in a timely manner, the non-employee spouse can protect their financial future and have peace of mind during this difficult time.


  1. What does QDRO stand for?

QDRO stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order. It is a court order that allows an employer-sponsored retirement plan to pay benefits to an alternate payee (non-employee spouse) in a divorce situation.

  1. How can I claim my share of the retirement benefits during a divorce?

To claim your share of retirement benefits, you need to have a QDRO in place. This court order will outline the amount of benefits you are entitled to receive.

  1. Can I file a QDRO after the divorce is finalized?

While it is possible to file a QDRO after the divorce is finalized, it is advisable to do it as soon as possible to protect your rights and benefits.

  1. Is a QDRO necessary for all retirement plans?

Not all retirement plans require a QDRO. It is essential to consult with a legal professional to determine if your specific plan requires this order.

  1. Where can I get professional assistance during my divorce?
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Organizations like “Know law” offer assistance to individuals going through divorce, including financial guidance and post-divorce checklists.

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