Question: Since my husband and I are divorcing I need help with getting some of his 401(k) from his work. I mean I'm entitled to split it with him or at least get some of it and I'd like to know how much I'm entitled to and how I can go about getting the money I'm due from it.
We've been married for almost 30 years and he's abusive, he drinks too much alcohol, and he admits to having a porn addiction. We've tried marriage counseling through our church and we tried a therapist in Buckhead, but nothing has worked. The pastor at the church made him angry by suggesting he's an alcoholic and the therapist was an attractive lady and he actually hit on her, he asked her out right in front of me – it was so embarrassing! That's because he showed up drunk and when he gets intoxicated he gets abusive and stays stupid stuff to everybody.
But he has a good job with a company based here in Atlanta and he's actually a senior vice president of finance. He's been with them for 25 years and his 401(k) has a large sum of money in it. He loved to save money, but that never stopped him from going to those strip clubs or massage parlors or paying those fees to the porn websites. You can tell, I'm sure, that I'm angry, hurt and resentful, but I'll try to keep emotion out of it. I've been reading your website and I need a QDRO to split his retirement account.
What should I do to get a QDRO and how much can I get of his 401(k)? He made me quit my job as a dental hygienist when we had our first child 28 years ago, so I don't have any real money of my own and his 401(k) is really important to my financial future after the divorce is finalized. I've heard you are the best QDRO lawyers in Atlanta and I'd like some help, please.
Samantha W. in Sandy Springs, GA.
Answer: A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (a QDRO) is the mechanism created under law to transfer money out of a retirement account, either a 401(k) or a pension. A QDRO has to be drafted correctly or it will be rejected and of no use. The QDRO, before becoming effective and transferring the assets, must be approved by the plan administrator for the retirement account and then it must be approved by a judge. If either the plan administrator or the judge fails to give approval, the QDRO does not take effect. That's why it's so important to have it drafted properly!
As to how much you are entitled to under the QDRO, that is to be determined by the parties, either through a negotiation or after a hearing. So a QDRO might not split the retirement account evenly, one side could conceivably obtain much more than the other. It can be an important bargaining tool in a divorce, whether the divorce is a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce. How the QDRO is split depends, ultimately, on what is negotiated by the divorce attorneys.
The QDRO should be referenced in the settlement agreement or mediated agreement and the agreement should state how the retirement account is to be apportioned using exact figures (either specific dollar amounts or percentages) or a date certain upon which to value the retirement account.
For help with any QDRO questions, please call us at 678-215-4106.