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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Qualified Massachusetts domestic relations and divorce

Massachusetts divorce is tough on most people. The longer the marriage, the tougher the emotional strains and the rougher the financial challenges faced by both spouses. Few Massachusetts couples are exempt from these challenges.

When a couple has committed to divorcing and is ready to tackle the complex process of property division, the question often arises, "Who gets what?" As an equitable distribution state, Massachusetts requires that a couple's assets and property be fairly divided. This means that everything from the marital home to bank accounts, stocks and bonds and retirement plans are up for discussion.

Under certain circumstances, a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) can be issued that recognizes a spouse's right to some part of the other spouse's retirement plan. The QDRO is a specific domestic relations order (DRO) or decree under domestic relations law that secures the rights to alimony payments, child support and marital property.

Under Massachusetts' family laws, a court must approve of any property settlement agreement by issuing a judgment, decree or order. A spouse merely signing an agreement is not enough. A DRO or QDRO is required to make the agreement legal. Neither spouse needs to sign or even approve a DRO or QDRO.

In the case of a retirement plan, nothing needs to be brought into a courtroom to be considered a DRO or a QDRO. A DRO can be issued by a state agency that has the authority to approve property settlement agreements. A DRO becomes a QDRO when it acknowledges the rights of an alternate payee to receive the benefits due to the spouse who participated in a retirement plan. The QDRO must include contact information for the participating employee and his or her alternate payee as well as the dollar amount or share of benefits that is to be paid to the alternate.

Source: DOL.gov, "Qualified Domestic Relations Orders," accessed on Dec.14, 2014

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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