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News Release

EBSA Press Release: Labor Department Issues Guide to Clarify Division of Pension Assets Through Domestic Relations Orders [07/30/1997]

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

For more information call: (202) 219-8921

A new guide to help employers, plan administrators, family law practitioners, participants and beneficiaries divide pension benefits was unveiled today by Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman at a roundtable discussion in Chicago.

"Family breakups are difficult enough without having to worry about retirement security," said Herman. "One of my top priorities is to assure that working Americans are economically secure when they retire, and I want families to know they can get help with one of their most important assets--a pension."

The guide, QDROs: The Division of Pensions through Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, clarifies the rules that apply when married couples facing a divorce wish to divide pension benefits or when a domestic relations court determines that support of a dependent should come from a parent's pension benefit. The guide interprets the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the federal pension law.

"It is important for everyone involved in these proceedings to understand what their rights are," said Assistant Secretary Olena Berg of the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA). "This publication can make the process less costly and run more smoothly for all parties involved."

State domestic relations law generally governs divorce and family support issues in a divorce or separation proceeding. State courts, however, must meet federal standards in dividing marital assets or in providing family support. Orders that meet this federal standard are called Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs).

Since its enactment, the federal law governing QDROs has produced many puzzling questions for plan administrators and for parties seeking to divide pension benefits upon divorce. The new guide will make it easier for parties to obtain orders that meet federal requirements. It also will make it easier for plan administrators to determine whether a domestic relations order is a QDRO and to administer the benefits that are covered by QDROs.

Herman spoke in Chicago before WEB, the Network of Benefits Professionals, which is a national organization for employee benefits professionals. Herman also announced that the department and WEB, along with the American Bar Association, will be jointly undertaking a national campaign to educate lawyers about ERISA requirements. Among other things, they will produce a satellite presentation about family law issues relating to pension benefits, to be aired in January.

The 90-page publication is available free of charge from PWBA's toll-free Publication Hotline at 1-800-998-7542. It is also available on --PWBA's Internet site.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employee Benefits Security Administration
July 30, 1997
Release Number