FAQs on Model QDROs
QDRO Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Do we have to use the model QDRO to divide benefits for ATRS?
ATRS does not require use of the model QDRO but any QDRO accepted by ATRS must comply with our benefit code and will usually need to contain most of the provisions in the model in order for ATRS to accept it.
2. What if both parties participate in ATRS?
If both parties participate in ATRS, a qualified order is needed for each account if benefits were assigned to the former spouse. For example, if John Doe and Jane Doe are both ATRS participants and obtain a divorce, in order for ATRS to pay John Doe from Jane Doe’s benefits, a QDRO is needed. If each party is assigned a portion of the other’s benefits, a separate QDRO is needed for both participants.
3. Where do we send a QDRO for approval by ATRS?
Prior to having a judge sign the order and having it entered by the court clerk, one of the parties or attorneys should MAIL or E-MAIL a draft copy of the QDRO to ATRS at:
Arkansas Teacher Retirement System
1400 West Third St.
Little Rock, AR 72201
Attn: QDRO – Legal Division
ATRS will confirm or deny the acceptability of the proposed QDRO as it pertains to the administration of the QDRO by ATRS. After the judge has signed the approved order and it has been entered by the court clerk, one of the parties or attorneys should send a FILE MARKED copy of the QDRO to ATRS. Providing the order to your employer is not sufficient to notify ATRS of a QDRO and your employer will not be able to administer the QDRO for you.
4. What if ATRS determines the order is not a “qualified” order?
The parties and their attorneys will be notified that the order is not qualified and the basis for that determination. If ATRS does not receive a revised order that it will accept, ATRS will pay the ATRS participant any benefits due without further notice to the former spouse.
5. What if the ATRS participant has already been divorced?
The model order may be used if the ATRS participant has a prior divorce with a QDRO. However, ATRS can only administer both orders if the subsequent order does not attempt to require ATRS to pay benefits already assigned to the alternate payee (former spouse) from a prior divorce. For example, a QDRO could assign a portion of your accrued benefits from 1995-1997 to alternate payee A and a subsequent QDRO could assign a portion of your benefits to alternate payee B from 1998 –2008.
6. When do benefits to my former spouse cease in the QDRO?
If ATRS is ordered to pay a portion of your retirement annuity to a former spouse under a QDRO, the monthly benefits will begin when you begin drawing benefits and will cease for both parties when the participant dies. ATRS will not adjust benefits for the life of the alternate payee under a QDRO.
7. What if I remarry the alternate payee or otherwise reach a subsequent resolution to a property settlement after a QDRO is accepted by ATRS?
The QDRO will stay in effect even if the parties remarry each other or agree to cancel the order. The QDRO remains in place unless the parties return to the court that entered the QDRO and obtain an order superceding or nullifying the QDRO of record. It is not sufficient that one of the parties notify ATRS that they agree to release or cancel the QDRO.
8. When using the model, how do I insert information?
When using the model, you should insert the appropriate information as replacement for the phrases set off by parentheses or brackets. For example, (Date of Divorce) should be replaced with “April 2, 2002” or the appropriate date your divorce was granted.
9. When the model order gives me a choice, how do I choose?
Where there is a choice of alternatives, you may only use one of the alternatives provided in the model. Do not list all of the alternatives or ATRS will not be able to administer the order. When the model gives you instructions such as [Use either A or B], remove those instructional phrases from the order so the order is not confusing. The model order is set up to work where the choices of A or B should be consistent throughout the order.
10. How do I know if my QDRO choices are consistent with my divorce decree or other property settlement in my divorce?
Attorneys and parties using the model QDRO and the model to determine marital property rights in a divorce should modify in the language in the model as necessary to comply with the property settlement of the individual case. ATRS is unable to provide legal advice as to how the benefits should be divided. ATRS is also unable to advise as to whether a particular QDRO complies with your property settlement agreement or divorce decree. The ATRS legal department may provide assistance in drafting modified language that complies with the plan or explain how to use the model QDRO.
11. How do I obtain information on my retirement plan for purposes of my divorce?
If you are the spouse or former spouse of an ATRS participant or are the attorney representing either party, you may obtain information on the participants account or benefits under certain circumstances. Your attorney or the attorney for your former spouse may issue a subpoena for the relevant documents or the participant may consent to the information being released in writing.
The participant may also consent in writing to the release of his or her account information for this purpose. If granted permission, you or your attorney may receive information regarding the participant’s account by writing a letter requesting the relevant information. Please include your name, social security number, the time period that you are interested in, the address and parties to which the information should be mailed, and your signature. If your attorney sends the request, he or she should include a statement of representation, indicate who he or she represents, and a state bar number. Please discuss the need for your information from ATRS very early with your counsel. You should submit a request for information at least 4 weeks before the information is needed for trial or settlement.
12. How do I determine the “value” of my retirement plan?
ATRS provides the parties with specific, objective information on a participant’s ATRS benefits. This includes information such as the amount of contributions and interest in the account at the time of divorce, amount of salary and service accrued during the marriage, whether the service is contributory or noncontributory, and a retirement estimate based on the current service credit and salary on file with the plan. ATRS will not provide estimates based on projected or assumed service and salary changes.
If you wish to calculate such estimates, you may do so by using the basic standard annuity benefits calculator on our website. You will need to input the final average salary (3 highest salaries) X years of service X the applicable multiplier (contributory or noncontributory plan). Divide the total by 12 and that will provide the monthly benefit. An annuity benefit calculator is available on the ATRS website which will perform this calculation for you.
ATRS is frequently asked to calculate the “value” or “present value” of a participant’s retirement benefits. The determination of “value” of a participant’s account is a subjective process based on several assumptions. For this reason, ATRS may not provide a determination of the “present value” of your benefits nor is such a valuation needed for the model QDRO. If you wish to obtain a valuation, you must consult with a private actuary or other expert who can provide assistance and testimony on this matter. You should consult with your attorney as to the need and cost of such assistance.
13. What if I purchase service in ATRS, does this count as marital property which is assigned in the QDRO?
When a participant purchases qualifying service to be counted toward ATRS benefit calculations, this service is credited toward the participant’s retirement upon full payment of the purchase amount. ATRS does not take a position on whether to include purchased service as “accrued benefits” assigned in a QDRO. If you have purchased service, the language in your QDRO needs to include specifics as to whether the purchased “service” should be included in the benefits assigned to the alternate payee.
14. May a QDRO require an immediate distribution of a participant’s account?
No, the ATRS plan provides when a participant may receive a distribution. Any benefits assigned in a QDRO will only be paid when the participant is eligible to receive the distribution in compliance with our plan statutes. A QDRO does not entitle either the participant or the alternate payee to withdraw benefits outside of the plan provisions immediately after a divorce.
15. What if I retire prior to the court entering a QDRO assigning my ATRS benefits to a former spouse?
ATRS retirement benefits are paid as a monthly annuity for the lifetime of the participant. If the participant retires prior to the QDRO, ATRS is only able to apply the division to monthly benefits paid after ATRS has received the QDRO.
16. How are payments from ATRS under a QDRO reported to the IRS?
If ATRS makes separate payments under a QDRO to a participant and alternate payee, it will be reported to the IRS separately for each individual. Benefits and other amounts paid to participants and alternate payees are generally taxable. Certain payments that represent payments to ATRS with after tax dollars may be nontaxable to the extent allowed by the Internal Revenue Code. When a portion of benefits is being paid to the alternate payee, a proportionate part of the non-taxable amount is attributed to the alternate payee. Each party will receive an IRS form 1099-R each year prior to January 31 containing the amount of payments made for the prior calendar year and amount of non-taxable payments, if any.
17. If the alternate payee dies prior to receipt of benefits under a QDRO, do the benefits revert to the participant?
Under the terms of the model QDRO, the benefits are returned to the participant.
18. What if I do not include certain ATRS benefits in the QDRO?
ATRS will administer the order as written. ATRS will not pay benefits to the alternate payee not authorized in the order. A QDRO does not have to assign all of the ATRS benefits to the alternate payee.
19. What if the participant is eligible for the lump sum death benefit?
The lump sum death benefit is a set amount payable upon the death of active or retired ATRS members with ten (10) or more years of service credit. The model QDRO does not address the lump sum death benefit since the plan allows the participant to nominate his/her beneficiary. If the parties wish to require a certain person or entity to be the participant’s beneficiary, the participant should complete a lump sum beneficiary form and submit it to ATRS. There is no need to complete a QDRO for this purpose. (ACA § 24-7-720).
20. Who is responsible for notifying ATRS of the QDRO?
One of the parties or attorneys for the parties must provide a certified copy of the QDRO to ATRS. If this is not done, ATRS will not know that benefits are to be paid to a former spouse and will pay the participant the full amount of benefits from the plan.
21. If I am the alternate payee, how do I set up my ATRS account in order to receive benefits under a QDRO?
Under the Members (Divorce and Your ATRS Benefits) tab on the ATRS website, there is a form #301 entitled “Alternate Payee Enrollment Form.” Please complete this form and submit it to ATRS. You will need to keep your address information up to date. ATRS has a change of address form you may use to update your contact information with us.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 January 2013 )