In the world of family law, few problems compare to a person’s failure to receive court-ordered alimony and/or child support on a regular, recurring basis. The enforcement and collection of support arrears can be difficult, expensive and time consuming. One overlooked remedy is to tap a non-custodial parent’s retirement plan for unpaid support. The technical term is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO. Such QDROs apply to both Defined Benefit Plans (traditional pensions) and Defined Contribution Plans (401-K Plans and the like). Even if the non-custodial parent has lost his or her job, a QDRO remains available for support collection purposes. At the same time, since every Plan is different, a court cannot instruct the Plan Administrator as to when or how to make a support distribution (for example, under some Plans a lump sum distribution is prohibited).
Since this area of family law is technical and detail oriented (including income tax consequences depending on how the QDRO is written), anyone seeking to utilize a QDRO as a means of collecting support arrears is well-advised to consult with an experienced family law attorney.