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ATTORNEY RULED GUILTY OF NEGLECT FOR DELAY IN PREPARING QDRO AFTER ENTRY OF DIVORCE JUDGMENT

Many attorneys are tempted to procrastinate in preparing a proposed QDRO after a divorce judgment is entered. The risk of such delay is demonstrated by the decision of the Oregon Supreme Court in the matter In Re Knappenberger, 340 Or. 573 (2006), which involved a charge of neglect against the attorney:

In this case, the accused undertook to complete the QDRO matter as part of his representation of Jirmasek in her marital dissolution. He then failed to finalize the QDRO over a more than eight-year period, despite repeated requests to do so from Pekelder and from Jirmasek, and despite letters reminding him of his obligations from Kawamoto's pension plan. The accused's conduct in 1994 in ignoring letters and requests from Pekelder simply to sign the QDRO and return it to her is inexplicable. To let the matter then languish for eight years is inexcusable. But the accused's conduct in 2002, when the matter was brought to his attention again, is, if anything, still more disturbing. Nothing in the accused's behavior at that point reveals that he felt any sense of urgency to complete the matter that he already had neglected for so long. Instead, the accused still took more than eight months to complete the process. Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the accused engaged in a course of neglectful conduct and is guilty of the charge of neglecting a legal matter in violation of DR 6-101(B).

While an eight-year delay is unusually long, the message of this decision is clear: do not delay in preparing and submitting your client's QDRO form.

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