If you divorce, your former spouse may be entitled to some or all of the benefits that you earned while you were married. The Plan must comply with a court order, properly prepared and submitted, that allocates some or all of your benefits to a former spouse, child or other dependent, if the order meets the requirements of a qualified domestic relations order ("QDRO"), as defined in ERISA. A QDRO is an order that creates or recognizes the existence of a former spouse's or child's right to receive all or a portion of your benefits, and that generally meets all requirements set forth in Internal Revenue Code §414(p). When you file your pension application, you are required to provide the Plan Office with information on any pending or prior divorce action. This includes a final or interlocutory judgment, marital settlement agreement and any related document.
If the Plan is notified of a pending divorce action or receives a court pleading known as a Joinder Request, the Plan may delay paying all or a portion of your Plan benefits for a reasonable period to allow time for the parties to prepare a QDRO (even if your pension application has been filed). If it appears that your former spouse or other alternate payee is seeking only a portion of your pension benefits or there are delays in the court proceedings, the Plan may, at its discretion, distribute to you that portion of your pension that is not likely to be part of a QDRO.
If your benefit may be affected by a QDRO, you should request a copy of the Plan's QDRO procedures. Those procedures include a sample QDRO that should be useful to the preparation of a QDRO. You or your spouse (or either of your attorneys) should submit a proposed QDRO to the Plan Office before submission to a court in order to avoid having to file the order multiple times to correct changes required by the Plan Office.
The Plan will review a proposed QDRO solely to determine whether it satisfies legal requirements. The Plan does not consider the fairness of any pension allocations made by the order. You and your spouse are each responsible for protecting your own interests when you agree to any QDRO.