Trial court has the authority to enter a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) even after the death of the plan participant.

Recent Case: Missouri Court of Appeals

In a 2010 dissolution judgment, Husband and Wife agreed, per a separation agreement, that each would get one-half of Husband’s Anheuser-Busch pension “unless Wife remarries.” In 2011, Husband remarried. He then died in 2012. Subsequent to his death, his ex-wife sought and obtained a QDRO giving her one-half of the pension benefits per the separation agreement. Husband’s widow sought to undo that process by challenging the trial court’s authority to enter a QDRO after Husband’s death. When the trial court entered a QDRO, Husband’s widow appealed.

Held: Affirmed as to authority to enter the QDRO. Reversed to amend the language thereof to mirror the parties’ agreement that ex-wife gets one-half unless she remarries.

“…[U]nder Section 452.330.5, the trial court may modify its judgment and decree of dissolution ‘to establish, to maintain, or to revise a QDRO in order to ensure that the order is ‘qualified’” under applicable federal law. The death of the plan participant has no impact on the trial court’s authority under §452.330.5, which contains no time constraint in accomplishing that which is required. It does not matter whether the parties’ separation agreement does not mention the implementation of a QDRO to accomplish the intent of the settlement. “The trial court’s entry of a QDRO accomplishes nothing more than recognizing and enforcing (the ex-wife’s) right to share in the pension plan as established in the dissolution decree.” However, the ex-wife’s marital status was a factor that would impact her right to share in the pension. The QDRO needed to reference this factor.

Source for Post: Missouri Bar