Retirement is one of those things that individuals don’t always think about until they need it. Many times, after years of hard work and savings, a retirement account represents a significant amount of money. During a divorce, these accounts, like most other assets, can’t be subject to marital property laws. And, if your retirement or pension is of high value, you may want to do everything in your power to protect it from property division.

Chances are, if you are facing a divorce and your retirement is subject to property division, you will become familiar with the court ordered judgment known as a QDRO or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. These agreements are court ordered judgments that allow one spouse to collect money from their ex’s retirement account.

While these agreements are not always necessary, they allow divorcing spouses to avoid a complete division of their retirement account upon divorce. Essentially, a QDRO details how payments from a retirement account are divided. These agreements take the place of an early withdrawal and are not subject to penalty. Like many other parts of a marital settlement agreement, payments outlined within a QDRO may be made only for a certain time period and may not always be an even split. In fact, in order for a QDRO to be approved, it must outline a payment period and a payment calculation to be used by the plans administrator before disbursement.

Qualified domestic relations orders are extremely complex agreements that typically require the help of an attorney. Since these agreements are not enforced until a plan administrator approves them, it is extremely important that divorcing spouses draft their QDRO with the help of an experienced legal professional.