Here in California, property division is based on the community property doctrine, so each spouse will usually receive half of the marital assets.
There’s only one surefire way to ensure that you’ll be able to receive any of your spouse’s retirement savings, however. You’ll need to execute a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).
What purpose does a QDRO serve?
A spouse wishing to receive a portion of the funds built up in their ex’s retirement account during their marriage must draft a typical divorce settlement agreement and a QDRO that gets delivered to the retirement plan’s administrator so that they can properly allocate the funds. You must take this extra step when dealing with retirement plans partly because the account isn’t in your name.
The judge presiding over your divorce must sign off on the QDRO for it to be valid. You should have it prepared and ready to be signed off on along with your divorce decree. You should then immediately present it to the retirement plan’s administrator to efficiently expedite the proper allocation of funds.
Finer details that you should know about QDROs
There can be fees and early withdrawal penalties associated with the QDRO’s allocation of funds. This is often contingent upon when the withdrawal happens, such as whether it’s before or after the plan’s owner reaches retirement age. Taxes, too, can be an issue, so it’s wise to get financial guidance before you decide how to handle the funds. You’ll want to carefully weigh this and the other ins and outs of QDROs when preparing for property division negotiations in your own California divorce case.