If you and/or your spouse has a pension plan, you need to look at it carefully when you divorce. Why? Because as SmartAsset.com explains, any pension plan covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a/k/a ERISA, contains specific rules and procedures you must follow in order to receive the expected payouts. You therefore likely will need a QDRO. 

As you probably know, Colorado law requires that you and your spouse divide your marital property, including your retirement accounts, fairly and equitably between you when you divorce. But a simple property settlement agreement and divorce decree do not always suffice. You may also need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. 

QDRO requirements 

The first thing you need to do is determine whether or not any of your respective retirement accounts fall under ERISA. If so, you need to contact the plan’s administrator. (S)he should be able to provide you with a sample QDRO for your attorney to go by when drafting your own QDRO. 

Keep two things in mind, First, your attorney needs to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s of the sample QDRO’s language, format and provisions. Failure to do so could result in unexpected negative consequences. In fact, your attorney should send a copy of his or her QDRO draft to the plan’s administrator for approval. 

Second, a judge needs to likewise approve your QDRO and either attach it to or incorporate it into your final divorce decree. Should you or your spouse die before the necessary QDRO(s) is/are in place, the survivor may ultimately receive nothing at all from one or more of the pension plans.