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Exploring Partnership Opportunities

Press Release: Jan 2024 | News, Press & Media

Exploring Partnership Opportunities: Enhancing Legal Aid through Innovative Technology

In a legal landscape marked by disparities in access to crucial services, “QDRO Assist” emerges as a beacon of hope, poised to bridge gaps in legal assistance. The mobile application, developed by the Center for Access to QDROs (“Center”), seeks to revolutionize how indigent individuals navigate the complexities of divorce-related retirement benefit divisions. This presentation outlines a compelling proposal to secure sponsorship under the Technology Initiative Grant program (TIG), administered by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), positioning QDRO Assist as a powerful solution for those falling below 200% of the federal poverty level.

The Center is the first program of its kind in the nation. There are over 2 million divorces a year in the U.S. However, there are only approximately 40 retirement benefit division professionals in the nation providing QDRO services for charge. There are no systematic programs available for low-income persons who need a QDRO.

Currently, laws protecting spouses who have a community or marital interest in a retirement plan are practical for the prosperous but theoretical for the indigent and self-represented. The baseline for QDRO services for low-income litigants is often, as a Center partner recently put it, “referring clients to nowhere.” The Program can change this paradigm and disrupt how retirement division at divorce is conducted (or, more accurately, not conducted) for low-income persons. Federal judges must swear or affirm that they will “do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”

QDRO Assist is an opportunity to utilize technology to ensure that, at least when it comes to the division of retirement benefits at divorce, the poor and the rich receive that “equal right” older people, whose need for retirement funds is especially acute. The Program’s primary goal is to ensure that the laws already on the books to protect a spouse with a community or marital interest in a retirement plan are utilized and enforced especially for low-income.


The Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) program

The Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) program, a flagship initiative fostering technological advancements in legal services, provides a unique opportunity for innovative projects like QDRO Assist. As we delve into this presentation, our purpose is crystal clear – to seek sponsorship and support for QDRO Assist, a mobile application with the potential to revolutionize legal services provision. The alignment of QDRO Assist with the TIG program’s goals makes it a compelling candidate for sponsorship, marking a significant step toward a more inclusive and accessible legal landscape.

QDRO Assist is not merely an app; it’s a transformative force designed to empower vulnerable populations. With a clear focus on individuals below 200% of the federal poverty level, QDRO Assist reaches across diverse sectors – private companies, public institutions, state and federal government agencies, and the U.S. Military. This inclusive approach ensures that no one is left behind in the pursuit of fair and accessible legal services.

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Press

FREE QDROs thanks to the California Access to Justice Commission!

Press Release: 2023 | News, Press & Media

FREE QDROs thanks to the California Access to Justice Commission!

Last year, nonprofit legal aid organizations and court-based self-help centers from across the state were provided free training and free access to software to enable them to help litigants in financial distress with retirement division through a grant from the California Access to Justice Commission. The grant monies enabled the creation of the Dividing Pensions in Divorce Project, which provided FREE training, software, and mentoring to nonprofit legal aid organizations and court-based self-help centers providing family law assistance to low and moderate income persons. The Project is continuing for a second year.

Almost all nonprofit legal aid organizations and court-based self-help centers do not offer QDRO support. This paradigm is changing with this grant! All too often, one of the parties in a divorce is employed having some sort of retirement account (e.g. 401k), but the other party is either not aware of their rights or cannot afford a QDRO to access their marital share. Access to funds through a QDRO can make a significant economic impact on low to moderate income individuals.

The Center has expanded the Project and will be providing QDRO services directly to income-eligible individuals. With a QR code, organizations will be able to refer litigants to the Center for free QDROs.

In partnership with the Center for Access to QDROs, nonprofit legal aid organizations and court-based self-help centers can now offer the following QDRO services:

Free QDROs: the Center has expanded the Project by providing QDRO services directly to eligible individuals. With a QR code, organizations will be able to refer litigants to the Center for free QDROs. After verifying income eligibility as established by the federal poverty standard, the Center will provide those individuals direct QDRO support. The Center will draft QDROs, joinders, notice of adverse interest, and judgment language.

Free QDRO Information Sessions: The Center will hold “QDRO Days” at participating nonprofit legal aid organizations and court-based, self-help centers. QDRO Days will be comprised of Center staff member(s) being available for a 2 – 4 hour block of time which will be dedicated to assisting staff of the participating entity work through their cases and/or by providing direct services to the individual litigants for their QDRO needs.

QDROCounsel Platform: All participants will have unlimited access to the QDROCounsel platform as well as help-desk assistance with any questions surrounding their use of the platform.

Education and Training: Bi-monthly 2-3 hours live Zoom training sessions on the following topics: (i) understand the types of retirement benefits; (ii) understand key QDRO issues including death, separate property interests, support, government plans and how to issue spot based on plan type; (iii) help create a system to identify litigants that need QDROs; (iv) how to integrate retirement benefits division into workflow; (v) what to do if a family law case involves retirement benefits, including joinders and discovery; (vi) draft judgment language that protects litigants and provides for the division of retirement benefits; and (vii) draft QDROs. Participants will also have access to the Learning Management System which includes the previously recorded training videos and materials from Year One, as well as over 14 hours of MCLE content.

Additional Support: Participants can request additional support in the form of one-on-one mentorship to assist them as they implement pension division into their workflow.

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Organization

Goals and Outcomes with Grants Obtained

Organization: 2022 | News, Press & Media

Goals and Outcomes with Grants Obtained

The goal is for grant participants to obtain funds for indigent persons going through divorce. It is a mistaken notion that only people with money have retirement accounts. All too often, one of the parties in a divorce is employed having some sort of retirement account (e.g. 401k), but the other party is not aware of his/her rights to a portion of those assets or because of lack of access in the self-help centers and/or legal aid organizations is not able to obtain his/her marital or community interest in those funds because they need a QDRO!

This issue has become even more critical in many states including California which has now implemented the CALSAVERS Retirement Savings Trust Act which among other provisions, mandates that employers with five or more employees must either provide a retirement savings plan or enroll in the state sponsored CALSAVERS options.

The only way to change this paradigm is to strengthen the infrastructure within legal aid programs, self-help centers and certain social service organizations to better serve low-income persons particularly women by securing their entitlements to retirement funds to increase their income and assets. This could mean lump sum payments; access to funds for child and spousal support and property equalization payments. These funds can augment meager Social Security checks or create a revenue source where there is no other for seniors.

The current capacity throughout the United States is extremely limited. There is no other resource for support but for the work provided by Center with its software, teaching, training and support. The goal with the grants obtained is to increase the capacity to as many nonprofit and/or government providers as possible to do the following: 1) train and enable as many nonprofit nonprofit legal providers including their chosen pro bono attorneys, and self-help court-based programs to incorporate retirement plan division into their family law services made available to the low and moderate-income public; 2) increase the general understanding and knowledge about retirement plan division so that they can better educate their constituents and make appropriate referrals and 3) create a working partnership out of the Center’s Advisory Panel whose mission is to promote accessibility to retirement fund division among a wider group of providers including court-based self-help programs in each state so that the justice gap be extinguished over a period of 5 years.

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Press

Center for Access to QDROs is making dividing retirement benefits in divorce accessible for all!

Press Release: 2022 | News, Press & Media

Making Dividing Retirement Benefits in Divorce Accessible

With training and mentoring for nonprofit legal service providers and court-based self-help centers, along with an exclusive license to drafting software, the Center for Access to QDROs is closing the justice gap to ensure that low and moderate income persons receive their entitlement to retirement assets in a divorce.

Divorce impacts individuals of all income levels. But for low to moderate-income individuals, the largest marital assets are usually a home and the pension. During a divorce, often the division of the pension is postponed or forgotten. This often leads to the loss of a financial asset for the most financially vulnerable individuals. Lack of information and access to assistance is the main obstacle in obtaining this asset. The Center for Access to QDROs was founded to close the justice gap when it comes to the division of retirement assets in a divorce.

The Center for Access to QDROs was established by the founders of QDROCounsel, a legal technology company for pension division. QDROCounsel, through its founders, have a long standing commitment to pro bono services. QDROCounsel has provided their revolutionary software and help desk assistance to nonprofits for free and also assists low to moderate income family law litigants on a pro bono basis.

In 2022, QDROCounsel, partnered with the nonprofit legal service provider, Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law for the Dividing Pensions in Divorce Project. Due to the Harriett Buhai Center’s trailblazing efforts assisting their clients with pension division, they were awarded a grant by the California State Bar’s California Access to Justice Commission. The grant monies enabled the creation of the Dividing Pensions in Divorce Project, which provided FREE training, software, and mentoring to nonprofit legal aid programs and court-based self-help centers providing family law assistance to low and moderate income persons. The Project created and increased capacity among nonprofit legal service providers and court-based self-help centers to assist family law litigants divide retirement benefits.

The Center for Access to QDROs was created due to the success of this 2022 Project, coupled with the founders of QDROCounsel’s commitment to ensure retirement benefits division is accessible to all and a desire to continue assisting low to moderate income family law litigants on a wider scale.