What Is a Florida QDRO and Why Do I Need One

In some cases, the divorce process can be simple and straightforward. In others, it can be more complex. Depending on your circumstances, failing to properly address details can leave you in unexpected financial trouble down the road. A Florida QDRO is one such detail. “A QDRO is a very technical document which is absolutely essential anytime a 401k, 403b, IRA or other ERISA plan is to be divided between divorcing spouses.” Family Law Attorney Holly Derenthal What Is a QDRO in Florida?  QDRO (pronounced “quadro”) is a legal acronym that stands for “qualified domestic relations order.” But what is it, exactly? You may have heard of domestic relations orders, especially if you or someone you know has been through a divorce. Family court judges can issue a variety of domestic relations orders. These orders command parties to do or refrain from doing a variety of things. But a QDRO is a specific court order that gives one spouse the right to a portion of the other spouse’s employer-sponsored retirement plan.  The “qualified” part of a qualified domestic relations order means that the retirement plan itself accepts the order as sufficient. In other words, a QDRO isn’t effective unless and until the retirement plan gives its stamp of approval. This stamp of approval is what obligates the plan to distribute the money as specified in the order.  Why Do I Need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order in Florida? At the end of a divorce, the judge issues a binding final order dissolving the marriage. Here, the judge spells out exactly how the parties must handle resolved issues. For instance, the judge specifies your child custody arrangements, child support amounts, and distribution of assets in this final order. As part of the distribution of assets, the judge may award Spouse A a portion of Spouse B’s retirement plan upon Spouse B’s retirement. Most people would probably think this is enough. After all, it is the final order of dissolution of marriage signed by a judge. Why wouldn’t it be enough to ensure the proper distribution of pension benefits?  ERISA But if your plan falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), then you also need a QDRO. Federal law requires it. Under these retirement plans, the plan participant (the spouse earning the pension) is not allowed to sign their benefits over to anyone else. Therefore, for the plan administrator to give some of the money to the non-participant spouse, a QDRO must be properly executed and filed.  Potential Consequences When there’s no QDRO in place, three things can happen. If your ex-spouse’s pension is not a qualified plan under ERISA, the plan administrator may accept this stipulation and divide the pension according to the final order of divorce. If the plan is a qualified plan, then the plan administrator is under no obligation to honor the language of the final order. They may honor it, or they may not. To avoid this potential pitfall, it is best to make a QDRO part of your divorce.  If your divorce is already finalized without a QDRO, you can file one after the fact. However, if your ex-spouse has already retired and begun getting payments from their retirement account, the filing of a QDRO will only apply to future allocations. In other words, you cannot get payments retroactively if you didn’t have a QDRO in place when benefit distribution began.  Can I File a Florida QDRO Myself? You need the assistance of a qualified, experienced attorney to create and properly file a QDRO in Florida. There are many thousands of different retirement plans out there. Each plan has unique requirements for what must be included in a valid QDRO. Each plan also has specific requirements for filing a QDRO properly. If you fail to meet all requirements, the plan administrator can reject it and refuse to pay benefits to the former spouse. It is nearly impossible for a non-lawyer to know the specifics of each type of qualified domestic relations order in Florida. Having a lawyer complete and properly file the QDRO can save a great deal of heartache down the road. We Are Here for You The lawyers at BrewerLong are here to serve you. You can count on our experienced family lawyers to guide you through the labyrinth of laws relating to child support, child custody, and divorce in Florida. We are friendly faces that you can count on. And when the going gets rough, we never back down from a challenge. We are here to protect your rights every step of the way. So call us today or contact us online to set up your initial consultation. We look forward to serving you. 

How Will My Divorce Impact My LLC

Going through a divorce in Florida is an emotional and stressful process. If you currently operate a successful LLC, you may wonder how Florida law impacts divorce and your LLC business. Consult with a family law attorney to discuss the consequences of divorce for an LLC as Florida requires division of the marital property at the time of divorce. However, whether your divorce impacts the ownership of your LLC depends on the facts surrounding your marriage. Division of property due to divorce is a complex process that often requires negotiation to resolve issues. Contact a BrewerLong family law attorney to discuss your LLC and divorce. Different Types of LLCs  There are multiple types of LLCs recognized in Florida. Whether your divorce and LLC ownership impact your estate division does not depend on the type of LLC. Florida Domestic LLCs Florida domestic LLCs are simply LLCs formed in the state of Florida. LLCs formed outside the state of Florida may become Florida LLCs through a process of conversion. Florida Foreign LLCs Foreign LLCs refer to LLCs formed in an area not governed by Florida law. These LLCs could be LLCs formed in another state or another country. Despite its foreign characterization, a foreign LLC may conduct business in Florida by obtaining a certificate of authority from the Division of Corporation of the Department of State. To obtain a certificate of authority, your LLC must conduct business within the state of Florida.  Florida Professional LLCs Professional LLCs, or PLLCs, are LLCs created for a specific purpose and certain individuals. In Florida, only people providing licensed professional services may form PLLCs. Licensed professionals include doctors, lawyers, certified public accountants, dentists, and others. Florida Nonprofit LLCs A Florida nonprofit LLC is an LLC created for purposes other than earning a profit. Typically, a Florida nonprofit LLC qualifies for exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A Florida nonprofit LLC must satisfy several requirements for the Section 501(c)(3) exemption.  Florida Series LLCs A series LLC is a unique LLC wherein the articles of formation permit unlimited segregation of membership interests, assets, and operations into independent series. Florida does not permit the formation of series LLCs. However, Florida does recognize if a branch of a series LLC formed in another state transacts business in Florida. By filing a certificate of authority, Florida recognizes the cell as an independent entity in Florida. How Is an LLC Formed? Your LLC is formed by filing necessary documents with the State of Florida. In most cases, you will also prepare an operating agreement that governs the LLC’s operations. Articles of Organization You need to file your articles of organization with the State of Florida to identify the LLC. The articles of organization include basic information such as the name and address of your business and its registered agent as well as well as a statement of purpose and an authorized signature. Operating Agreement An LLC Operating Agreement provides the structure for the LLC. The agreement outlines the duties and responsibilities of each of the members. It typically also provides information regarding member removal, LLC dissolution, and the appointment and resignation of members.  Every LLC should create an Operating Agreement to provide procedural safeguards and prevent conflict among the LLC members. The Operating Agreement outlines smooth business operations with clear information and procedures to avoid future conflict among members. How Does Florida Law Divide Property in a Divorce? Florida is an equitable distribution state for purposes of divorce. Florida defines equitable distribution as the fair division of all property between married parties. Property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property and is fairly divided between the parties. Property acquired before marriage, inherited during the marriage, or excluded by agreement remains separate and is referred to as non-marital property. Marital Property  Marital property includes property and assets acquired during the marriage regardless of who purchased it or whose name is on it. Marital property typically includes the following: Personal or real property held by the parties; Retirement benefits accrued during the union; Increase or appreciation in the value of separate assets (in some cases); Workers’ compensation, insurance, pension, and social security benefits paid during the marriage; and  Stock options. In addition to the above listed items, gifts from one spouse to another during the marriage often identify as marital property. Non-Marital Property  Florida law excludes non-marital property in the division of the marital estate during a divorce. Non-marital property includes the following: Property acquired before marriage, Property acquired before or during marriage through inheritance or gift by someone other than the spouse, and  Income earned by non-marital assets. Even if your LLC is marital property, it does not mean you must resign yourself to losing your interest in it. An experienced family law attorney at BrewerLong can conduct a careful assessment of all your marital and non-marital property assets to negotiate property division. Is My LLC Marital or Non-Marital Property? Your LLC is an asset. Whether it is deemed an asset of the marriage or non-marital property depends on factors such as: When you formed the LLC; Whether you invested marital assets in the LLC; Whether your spouse contributed to the LLC; and Any agreements between you and your spouse regarding the LLC. Even if you formed the LLC before marriage, it can become marital property. For example, if you invested marital funds in the business or if your spouse worked in the business without compensation, a court might decide that the LLC has become a marital asset. When an LLC and divorce are involved, a lawyer can help you determine the value of your LLC. A business appraisal can provide an accurate value of your LLC. If your LLC is determined to be marital property, it can strengthen your spouse’s negotiating position. However, a divorce does not need to mean the end of your LLC business. Hiring a qualified family law attorney in Florida can help you reach an agreement with your spouse that will preserve the business…

Modifying Child Support and Alimony Payments Due to COVID-19

State and Federal shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19 have resulted in unprecedented interruptions to the economy. Many people have lost part or all of their income due to layoffs, furloughs, and business closures. Because of this, child support and alimony payment orders that depend on income are in question. Despite the current global turmoil, people must pay child support and alimony unless a court issues an order modifying the existing orders. Without a court order modifying or terminating child support or alimony payments, a motion for contempt may be filed against the individual behind on payments. When Can I Modify My Child Support or Alimony Payments? Florida permits courts to modify child support and alimony payments if the financial situation of the payor experiences a “substantial change in circumstances.” Modifications of child support and alimony orders are considered very serious; however, when the proper circumstances exist, modifications may be granted. To modify child support or alimony payments, you will need to file a petition with the court in the county where the case originated. A “substantial change in circumstances” must exist to warrant a modification of any existing child support or alimony orders. The change in circumstances must also be unforeseen. Nationwide, millions of Americans are experiencing substantial and unexpected changes in their financial situation due to COVID-19. Therefore, the inability to pay existing child support or alimony orders due to COVID-19 may warrant a modification. Your income does not need to have changed by any set amount before filing a petition for modification. However, in child support orders, the modification must result in a difference of $50 or 15% (whichever is greater) from the prior existing order. Whatever the reason, losing your job or being furlough for an extended period can have a devastating impact on your financial resources. The responsible thing to do in these situations is to evaluate your ability to continue to make child support and alimony payments in the same amounts that were determined in the past. Family Law Attorney Holly Derenthal What Is the Process for Seeking a Modification? Requests for modification of child support are likely to be granted if the modification serves the best interests of the child or children. Your supplemental petition to modify child support outlines the basic details of the case, specifically the purposes and facts surrounding the request for modification. Due to COVID-19, some counties may have closed their courthouses to non-essential hearings. Determining whether your situation qualifies as an emergency requires the review and support of an experienced family law attorney. How Can BrewerLong Help Me Modify My Support Obligations? Each county in Florida has different local requirements for a petition to modify child support or alimony payments. The process can be confusing, further complicated by the stress and uncertainty in the time of COVID-19. In Orange County, legal services are considered an essential business. BrewerLong attorneys continue to work in the office without interruption in serving client needs. Contact BrewerLong to learn more about your options for modifying your child support or alimony orders in the time of COVID-19.