Divorce Decree Submitted after Participant's Death is not a QDRO

July 16, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled that a divorce decree did not meet the requirements a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) because of technical failures and untimely submission to the plan administrator.

The court did not agree with the plan administrator that there was nothing left to assign after the pension plan participant’s death, but did decide that the decree did not qualify as a QDRO under the defined benefit plan’s terms. The plan’s QDRO procedures provided for the recognition of orders submitted after a participant’s death only if there was insufficient time to obtain an order beforehand, and in the present case the divorce was completed two years prior to the participant’s death.

In addition, the court found that the divorce decree failed nearly every standard laid out in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to qualify as a QDRO. The decree did not identify the parties’ addresses, specify the affected plan, or indicate what percentage of benefits was to be paid.

The case is R.A.F. v. Southern Co. Pension Plan, 2008 WL 2397391 (M.D. Ala. 2008).