QDRO – (Qualified Domestic Relations Order)

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A QDRO is a specifically drafted document which requires both parties notarized signatures to divide the community portion of retirement benefits earned by either party, during the marriage. QDRO`S must be written is very specific language that is acceptable to the Plan that administers the retirement benefits and vary from Plan to Plan.

In the State of California, all income earned during a marriage is considered to be community property. “Income” is not limited to the money paid to an employee in the form of a paycheck, but also includes the retirement benefits that are earned by an employee.

In order to “split” the martial property portion of a person’s retirement and distribute the non-participating spouse’s portion of that retirement to them, the Court typically determines the present value of the future benefits and orders the retirement plan to pay that amount to the non-participating spouse through QDRO.

Once approved by the Plan holding the funds or benefits requiring division, the QDRO is submitted to the court, signed by the Judge and becomes the Order to implement said division. The Order is used to recognize the rights of a spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of a participant in an employee benefit plan who may be entitled to receive a portion of the vested interest of that participant— usually pursuant to a divorce.


A joinder forces the company to involve an administrative representative throughout the QDRO process and to incur all of the associated costs. For this reason, many retirement companies today will grant jurisdiction to the Court without requiring a joinder be filed. You can find out whether or not a joinder is required by speaking to an agent within the retirement plan`s administration office.

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All information and contents found within this website has been derived from approved and sanctioned literature found on the California Association of Legal Document Assistants website. For more information please visit Calda.org.