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David R. Hartwig, Esq.
Family Law & Divorce
Attorney & Counselor at Law
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Divorce, Retirement Plans, and QDROs

If your future former-spouse has a retirement plan, or a number of those plans, through an employer you are probably entitled so some portion of the plan or plans (usually a share depending on the lengths of marriage in relation to length of employment). How you calculate your share is part of the divorce process, either through settlement or trial.

Once all that work determining the division of the plan is completed, and the decree of divorce is entered, the one of you (usually the person receiving the benefit of the division) has to prepare what is know as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO. The QDRO is a separate order from the court, but it is based on the provisions of the divorce decree that relate to the retirement plan (in essence, the plan administrators don’t want to read everything in your decree; they are just interested in the part of the decree addressing the retirement). As such, one cannot truly prepare a QDRO before the decree is entered by the court.

Again, QDROs are only required on employer-employee, or work-based plans. And, you need a separate QDRO for each such plan. As to other types of plans, the process is different and will be addressed separately.

In preparing a QDRO, one needs to ensure the QDRO fully represents and contains the intent of the parties as set forth in the divorce decree. And you should probably work with a lawyer who has knowledge and experience in preparing QDROs; not all divorce or family lawyers have this experience; and an error could result in the plan administrator rejecting the QDRO meaning you have to go back to square-one, and explain to the other spouse and the court why you are having to re-file everything over again. It is best to get it correct the first time.

Your local account broker, or investment advisor, may not be the appropriate person to only consult. That person may not know the requirements of a QDRO and point you in the wrong direction — I recently had a client whose broker insisted that a QDRO was required on a personal, not a work place, account. It took some extra time, and cost to the client, to educate the broker on this point — that QDROs only pertain to plans with an employer.

In addition to my work in the divorce area, including appropriate division of retirement accounts based on property allocation and “fault” in the divorce, I have experience in communicating with plan administrators and having QDROs appropriately prepared and approved by the administrators and the courts.

I am David R. Hartwig, Esq., a Salt Lake City attorney with extensive experience helping parents resolve simple or high-conflict custody issues reaching arrangements that work for children and parents. Child custody involves parent-time and visitation schedules, and can affect support. I help in all of these areas, providing comprehensive service clients need to achieve their custody goals.

Factors In Child Custody Decisions

As an experienced Utah child custody lawyer, I understand that custody cases may become a contentious issue even years after an order is finalized. The trend in Utah toward joint custody often creates messy, unworkable situations, which ultimately lead to enforcement issues when parents do not abide by their custody orders.

The best interests of the child must be considered, including:

• Whether joint legal or physical custody will benefit the child’s physical, psychological and emotional needs, or the child’s development

• The parents’ ability to give first priority to the child’s welfare, and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest

• Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

• Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce

• The distance between the parents’ homes

• The parents’ maturity and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents

• The parents’ ability to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly

• Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping

• Any other factors the court finds relevant

Despite the complicated and sensitive nature of custody matters, I have helped many clients successfully establish custody orders.

Get Help With Your Child Custody Issue

If you have a child custody issue, please contact me, David R. Hartwig, Esq. I am an experienced Salt Lake City custody lawyer dedicated to helping clients resolve complex custody issues and implement necessary custody orders. For high-conflict cases, I am also one of the few Utah child custody modification attorneys trained as a Special Master for ongoing dispute resolution.

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