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In brief, the answer to your question is no, refer to paragraph 3.
What is a Domestic Relations Order?
A domestic relations order is a judgment, decree, or order (including the approval of a property
settlement) that is made pursuant to state
domestic relations law
(including community property
law) and that relates to the provision of child
payments, or marital property rights for the benefit
of a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent
of a participant.
A state authority, generally a court, must actually issue a judgment, order, or decree or otherwise formally approve a property settlement agreement before it can be a domestic relations order under ERISA
. The mere fact that a property settlement is agreed to and signed by the parties will not, in and of itself, cause the agreement to be a domestic relations order.
There is no requirement that both parties to a marital proceeding sign or otherwise endorse or approve an order. It is also not necessary that the retirement plan
be brought into state court or made a party to a domestic relations proceeding for an order issued in that proceeding to be a domestic relations order or a qualified domestic relations order. Indeed, because state law is generally preempted to the extent that it relates to retirement plans, the Department takes the position that retirement plans cannot be joined as a party in a domestic relations proceeding pursuant to state law. Moreover, retirement plans are neither permitted nor required to follow the terms of domestic relations orders purporting to assign retirement
benefits unless they are QDROs.