An Ohio judge may award you a portion of the money inside of your spouse’s 401(k) or other retirement account. In some cases, you may be entitled to a portion of a spouse’s pension plan in a final divorce settlement. However, a qualified retirement plan or pension must, generally, be divided through a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).

The divorce decree isn’t always enough

While a divorce decree might meet the criteria to be a QDRO on its own, this is rarely the case. Therefore, this document will need to be filed in addition to the divorce decree stating that you are entitled to obtain funds from a retirement account. Ideally, the order will be acquired before the divorce decree goes into effect, but its terms are still valid regardless of when it is filed with the plan administrator. Furthermore, the plan administrator, generally, cannot reject the order simply because it was filed after the plan participant has died.

It may be possible to reopen a divorce case

If you fail to obtain a QDRO during the original divorce proceeding, it may be possible to reopen the matter. However, it is important to point out that it could take several months or years to determine what you are entitled to and have the document accepted by a plan administrator. It could also cost thousands of dollars in legal and other fees to restart the case and create the QDRO.

Ending a marriage can be among the most complex and emotional experiences in your life. Therefore, it may be a good idea to navigate the divorce process with the help of an attorney. This person may have the experience necessary to draft a QDRO or take other steps to help you obtain a favorable settlement.