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Greater Newburyport

Bar Association

2024 Schedule


One Sentence Is Not Enough to Divide a Pension: Drafting the Proper Separation Agreement Language to Protect Your Clients

Thursday, January 25, 2024


Attorneys have a standard of care to make sure that their client receives a complete co-ownership interest in the marital portion of the participant’s benefits in a pension, and not just a partial co-ownership interest. However, because the language for dividing a pension in the agreement frequently leaves out very critical areas that need to be addressed, both parties may be left open to receiving an inadequate result. This is understandable because both private sector pensions and Massachusetts state pensions are highly technical and complex.  

Attend and Learn:

  • Ten critical areas that need to be addressed in every defined benefit plan QDRO or DRO

  • The difference between ‘marital portion’ versus ‘marital coverture’, survivorship protection, early retirement subsidies or supplements

  • How to identify the issues specific to private sector pensions and state pensions

  • Wha is best practice’ language to use in the separation agreement.

  • How to use two separate checklists to assist in drafting the agreement


Note from Our Presenter, Diane Pappas

"As a Certified QDRO Specialist™ (CQS), I am uniquely qualified to provide this expert information. Many of the final agreements/judgments I see from both attorneys and judges lack the necessary language making it impossible to draft a QDRO/DRO. In most cases, the agreements need to amended after the divorce to correct the errors. This can cause multiple problems for all parties involved. My best practice is to draft the QDRO/DRO prior to submitting the agreements in court so these mistakes can be avoided."

"Even if the QDROs/DROs have been approved by the judge, the Plan Administrator or the Retirement Board, that doesn’t mean that they match the intent and spirit of the agreement and they can come back to haunt you many years later. My goal as a CQS is to protect you, the attorneys, and to protect the rights and entitlements of my clients, by making sure there will be no issues in the future when the participant commences their benefit in retirement."

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