If you are an Alaska man facing divorce, one of your biggest concerns may well be how much, if any, of your pension plan your about-to-be former spouse will receive. The answer to that depends on several factors.

Alaska law requires that you and your spouse divide your marital property fairly and equitably in a divorce. Your pension plan may, therefore, come into play.

QDRO definition

If your pension plan is one of those covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, you will need the judge to issue a Qualified Domestic Relations Order in addition to or incorporated within your divorce decree.

A QDRO is a legal document that follows all the rules and requirements of your pension plan in terms of the distributions of its funds. Keep in mind that a QDRO is separate and apart from any property settlement agreement you and your spouse may agree to. No matter what your property settlement agreement says, if your pension plan requires a QDRO, you must have one. It supersedes your property settlement agreement with respect to your pension.

Initial step

The first thing you need to do is to find out if ERISA covers your pension plan. Call your plan’s administrator to obtain this information. If it does, explain to the administrator that you and your spouse are divorcing and will need a QDRO. Ask him or her if (s)he has a sample QDRO (s)he can send you so you and your attorney can use it as a guideline in constructing your own.

After drafting

QDROs represent some of the most complex legal documents in existence. Even though your attorney will go to great lengths to make sure your QDRO contains all the necessary language and provisions, your wisest strategy consists of sending your completed QDRO to your plan administrator so (s)he can approve it before you sign it. This will preclude the possibility of it containing any inadvertent mistakes.