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.