When people go through a divorce after working for years, there may be retirement accounts that must be divided. These accounts are often overlooked because retirement is not on the minds of the couples while they’re divorcing. In Texas, the courts use a special type of order, called a qualified domestic relations order, to divide retirement accounts and apportion the funds between the individuals. QDROs are usually created during the divorce process, but they can also be filed for a period of time following divorce.

There are federal rules that prohibit divided retirement benefits between former spouses unless a QDRO has been created and filed in the case. The divorce decree may contain terms that are sufficient to be read as a QDRO, but the QDRO may be a separate document in many cases. There is an important difference between a domestic relations order generally and a QDRO. Any court of family law may issue a domestic relations order, but it is not qualified until it has been accepted into the plan.

The term QDRO refers to domestic relations orders that have been accepted to divide private retirement plans. Orders related to different kinds of retirement plans may be referred to differently. Division of plans for employees of the federal employees, for example, requires an order called a court order acceptable for processing, or COAP.

People who are going through a divorce in Texas or who have questions about the process might want to schedule a meeting with a lawyer. A lawyer who has experience practicing family law may be able to help by identifying and categorizing the couple’s assets or by negotiating the terms of property division with the other side. A lawyer might also represent the client during official proceedings or draft and file documents to begin the divorce process.