What is a QDRO, and what does it mean to you?
The United States Department of Labor defines a Qualified Domestic Relations Order as a domestic relations order that creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee’s right to receive, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive, all or a part of the benefits payable to a participant under a pension plan.
When did APERS start offering the QDRO?
The Qualified Domestic Relations Order,(QDRO) was authorized by Act 1143 of 1993 for the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS).
Who is defined as an alternate payee?
For purposes of the APERS QDRO provisions, an alternate payee cannot be anyone other than a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant. This means a vested member’s benefit is subject to a QDRO in case of a divorce.
How do I apply for a QDRO?
You or your attorney can request an application for a QDRO from the APERS office. The form may be filed for an active, inactive, or retired member. The application for a QDRO must be filed in the format approved by the APERS Board of Trustees, and the signed original filed in the proper court must be submitted. If this procedure is not followed, APERS will not honor the QDRO.
How can I be sure we're following the right QDRO format?
Members, alternate payees and their attorneys can call APERS for a model QDRO in the proper format. Please specify if the member is active or retired when requesting information for a QDRO.
What information must be included in the QDRO?
The QDRO requires some specific information, such as the member’s and the alternate payee’s (ex spouse) name, Social Security number, date of birth, and current address*, date of marriage, and date of divorce.**
* The alternate payee is responsible for informing APERS of any change in address.
**The divorce date must remain constant throughout the document.
What happens when APERS received the QDRO?
Upon receipt of a QDRO by APERS, the member’s record and the QDRO document are reviewed. If the member is not or was not vested for future benefits on the divorce date or other irregularities are discovered, the QDRO will not be accepted. The member and the alternate payee are informed of the review findings by letter.
If corrections to the QDRO are necessary, a letter will be sent outlining those corrections. Attorneys may submit a draft to APERS for a determination of acceptability prior to having it signed and filed. Then, if corrections are needed, they may be made before the document is submitted in court for the judge’s signature.
How is the Benefit Payment determined under QDRO?
The alternate payee must choose to draw the benefit for the member’s lifetime or for the lifetime of the alternate payee.
The member must request an estimate for benefits, or the alternate payee or the alternate’s attorney may submit a notarized release from the member for an estimate of benefits. The estimate for the member is prepared using the current formula, service accrued during the dates of the marriage, and the salary projected through the date of divorce or separation. A copy of the divorce decree is not required, and it will not be recognized to pay an ex-spouse if no QDRO has been filed.
The amount of the benefit payment for the alternate payee will be stated as a percentage of the member’s benefit or stated as a specific dollar amount.
If a QDRO for a retiree (or a DROP participant) is filed, payment to the alternate payee becomes effective on the first of the month following receipt of the acceptable document.
The benefit payable to the alternate will be based on the member’s service accrued during the dates of the marriage, and on the reported salary on those dates. The benefit formula to be applied will be that in effect when the member retires or enters the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).
Does an alternate payee receive a QDRO benefit if the member has not retired or entered the DROP?
No benefit is paid to the alternate payee before the member retires or enters the DROP. Payments to the alternate payee will become payable immediately upon retirement for age and service, disability, or for DROP participation. Note:APERS cannot require a member to apply for benefits.
What about contributions paid by a contributory member?
Alternate payees may be entitled to a portion of contributions refunded to a member upon termination of employment.
What happens if the member dies before retirement?
If the member dies prior to retirement, the alternate payee will not be eligible for a monthly benefit.
What happens if the ex-spouse dies before the member retires?
If the ex-spouse dies before the member retires, all benefits revert to the member.
How do I get more information on QDRO?
For more information contact:
Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System
124 W. Capitol Ave., Suite 400
Little Rock, AR 72201
501-682-7800 Local Phone
1-800-682-7377 Toll Free
Specific information about member records is not discussed over the phone. Those questions will require a written inquiry with the member’s authorization.