Print Posted By Just Document Preparation on 11/07/2017

Average Timeline for QDRO in California

Average Timeline for QDRO in California

A QDRO or qualified domestic relations order in California is an order inside a family law case which will direct a plan or account administrator to make a division based on a court order. Usually these are from property division orders but can also be used for child and or spousal support in some cases. The average timeline for a divorce case in California can vary dramatically, and the QDRO process is no different. Divorce cases can be as short as final judgment in the parties’ hands within months when uncontested but in contested cases with continued trials and hearings, these cases could take years to sort out the issues. While the QDRO is part of the divorce, it is usually initiated after the property division order has been completed. Simply put, the length of the divorce or separation doesn’t have much bearing on the timeline for the QDRO, other than when it can begin. In California the QDRO process will run its own and unique timeline that can widely vary from person to person.

Since the QDRO for community property division is done after the divorce or separation and because those orders already made a division order, the QDRO can be thought of as mainly procedural. The divorce or separation judgment made an award of a portion of an account to one party and then the QDRO will convey and make that order effective upon the plan administrator (account holder). Essentially it is an order that must make its way around different places getting signatures and approvals before being able to be used to split an account. A quick reference is as follows. The QDRO is drafted based on the family law judgment. From there most Judges require or want to see an approval from the plan administrator, so after drafting a trip to the plan for approval is often needed. Once it has been approved all parties and their current attorneys can sign the document creating an agreement on the order. Next that order goes back to the family law court for the Judge to sign and enter that order into the court system. From there it is an order of the court and can then go back to the plan administrator as an order they can use to then divide the account in question.

To draft the QDRO a sample from the plan administrator and the family judgment can be used to integrate all information. Obtaining a sample QDRO from the plan administrator may take about a week if they mail it, or same day if they have samples available online. From there, drafting and merging information from the case shouldn’t take more than a day or so. Before sending to the plan for approval all parties can review to make sure they are okay with the draft as stated before it goes off. This could take a few days or weeks if each attorney wants to do a detailed review or dependant on their current workload.

The drafted QDRO goes to the plan administrator for approval. While larger plan administrators have departments that do this only, some smaller companies do reviews in house or some companies either have 3rd party law firms or plan administrators handle their retirement and pensions. Once a plan administrator gets a drafted QDRO, the timeline for review is based on their workload. Some are able to review and provide approval same day, while other larger entities could take up to 90 days. The timeline here is dependent on your specific plan administrator.

Approved QDRO ready for all parties to sign. Once the plan administrator has approved the draft it is ready for the parties to sign. If the petitioner and respondent still have attorneys on their case they will sign as well. This could take a few days to weeks depending on scheduling and notarization requirements. If the QDRO has been reviewed by all parties as mentioned above, it could save time since everyone has already seen the document. If the approved QDRO is new to any party, they may want longer to review before signing and if they want adjustments a new approval on the new draft may be required.

After all parties have signed the QDRO it can go to the family law court. Many courts in California have a stipulation and order and or QDRO fee of $20.00. You can check with your court prior to submitting. The QDRO, and for ease, the approval letter from the plan is submitted to the court with the filing fee and self addressed stamped envelopes back to the parties. Most courts in California can have these processed and signed by the Judge within 3-4 weeks at the most. Once signed by the Judge the court staff will return filed copies to the parties in envelopes provided.

Executed QDRO goes to plan administrator. Now that the Judge has signed the QDRO and made it an order of the court, it can go to the plan administrator as an official order directing them to divide the account. A few days in the mail has the order to the plan administrator but again their procedural timeline will depend on how soon they issue the division. Some plan administrators process those divisions as soon as they receive the order while some have a back log that moves the division back a month or so. On some accounts plan administrators only divide accounts with QDROs once a year to save resources on the extra accounting and procedural work it is for staff. Your specific plan administrator can provide a detailed timeline for divided accounts and releasing funds once they receive a QDRO.

As we can see, each and every case can have a very different timeline for a QDRO. From start to division of account and receipt of funds can be a few short months to a year or more. If you are initiating a QDRO process it is a good idea to talk with your plan administrator as they can provide very specific timelines on your account. If you are unsure about the process and want to consult with professionals first, a QDRO and Pension Division Attorney can help. These are local family law attorneys who help clients facilitate account divisions and community property splits with qualified domestic relations orders. There are also professional services that strictly do QDRO document preparation. Our team at Just Document Preparation does offer QDRO services to the public and also on a sub-contract basis to attorneys and firms.