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Many people assume that alimony payments work by dropping a check in the mail. The truth is that there are multiple options for spousal support after a Maryland divorce. One is the qualified domestic relations orders (QDRO), which is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) instead of state divorce laws. It seems strange that a law regulating retirement, health plans, and other perks would apply to your divorce, but employment benefits do have value. Even if not triggered until retirement or other future date, these benefits could be considered in property division and spousal support.
Taking the specific issue of alimony, ERISA imposes certain requirements when proceeds of an employment-based plan will be paid to someone other than the owner. A QDRO is the tool that you would use to legally put such an arrangement into effect. A Baltimore County spousal support attorney can explain details, which can be complicated by both ERISA and Maryland divorce laws. A summary may help you understand the basics.
Reasons to Use a QDRO
The point of this document is to provide instructions to the plan administrator of an employment-based benefit that is covered by ERISA. Since this person cannot simply re-direct payment to someone other than the owner of the account. The plan administrator must have a QDRO that recognizes the rights of an “alternate payee” to receive some or all of the proceeds; the participant is the employee who has an interest in the employment plan. A QDRO could identify a child as an alternate payee for child support. It will be the ex-spouse for alimony in divorce.
Obtaining the Proper Order from a Maryland Divorce Court
There are two methods for getting a signed QDRO from the judge:
- The parties agree on alimony, including the type, duration, and amount. The QDRO can direct support payments to be paid to the recipient as alternate payee. It can also instruct the plan administrator to divide the plan between the parties.
- If you cannot reach an agreement, the judge will decide the issue of alimony by applying Maryland statutory provisions to the facts of the case. After making the determination, the judge will enter the QDRO.
Requirements for a Legally Binding QDRO
While many orders you enter in a Maryland divorce case are meant to comply with state laws, the QDRO must also meet the criteria established by ERISA. You will need to include basics, such as the name, address, and contact information for the plan participant and the alternate payee. In addition, the document must contain the specifics on how payments will be made and/or how the plan must be divided to fulfill the alimony obligation.
Trust a Maryland Alimony Lawyer for Help With QDROs
These points about QDROs as a strategy for paying spousal support are useful. They also reveal the complexities of ERISA and other laws. For more information, please contact the Law Office of William F. Mulroney today. You can call (443) 352-8433 or visit us online to set up a free initial consultation.