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      QDROs - Division of Pensions FAQ #2

2. What is a Domestic Relations Order?
A domestic relations order is a judgment, decree, or order (including the approval of a property
settlement) that is made pursuant to state domestic relations law (including community property law)
and that relates to the provision of child support, alimony payments, or marital property rights for the
benefit of a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant.

A state authority, generally a court, must actually issue a judgment, order, or decree or otherwise
formally approve a property settlement agreement before it can be a domestic relations order under
ERISA. The mere fact that a property settlement is agreed to and signed by the parties will not, in and
of itself, cause the agreement to be a domestic relations order.

There is no requirement that both parties to a marital proceeding sign or otherwise endorse or
approve an order. It is also not necessary that the retirement plan be brought into state court or made
a party to a domestic relations proceeding for an order issued in that proceeding to be a domestic
relations order or a qualified domestic relations order. Indeed, because state law is generally
preempted to the extent that it relates to retirement plans, the Department takes the position that
retirement plans cannot be joined as a party in a domestic relations proceeding pursuant to state law.
Moreover, retirement plans are neither permitted nor required to follow the terms of domestic relations
orders purporting to assign retirement benefits unless they are QDROs.

Reference: ERISA §§ 206(d)(3)(B)(ii), 514(a), 514(b)(7); IRC § 414(p)(1)(B)


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