qualified domestic relations order (QDRO)

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Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is a domestic relations order, i.e., a judgment, order, or decree for alimony, support, or marital property rights, which must transfer all or part of the right to receive benefits payable under one’s pension plan based on a state's domestic relations law.

A domestic relations order is made by a state authority, usually a court, under a state domestic relations law. These judgments are for child support, alimony or marital property rights to the participant's spouse, former spouse, children, or other dependents. A domestic relations order becomes a QDRO only when it creates or recognizes an alternate payee’s right to receive, or transfers to an alternate payee the right to receive all or part of the participant's benefits, and the alternate payee cannot be anyone other than the participant's spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent. 

See: 26 USC § 414(p)(1); 29 U.S. Code § 1056

See, e.g. Kennedy v. Plan Adm'r for DuPont Sav. and Inv. Plan, 129 S.Ct. 865 (2009)

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]