Typically, QDRO’s are viewed as mechanisms to effectuate the distribution of retirement assets, such as 401(k)’s and pensions. However, they can also be used as effective tools to enforce court-order support obligations. This is facilitated by the expansive definition of the term “domestic relations Order” that is set forth in 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(A) and 29 U.S.C. 1056(D)(3)(B)(i)(I). Under those sections, domestic relations orders include judgments, decrees or orders that are made pursuant to state domestic relations laws whose contents satisfy ERISA’s mandates and which relate “to the provision of child support, alimony payments, or marital property rights to a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant.
In Renner v. Blatte, 650 N.Y.S.2d 943 (1996), the use of a QDRO to secure both arrears and future support obligations was approved by the Supreme Court in New County. Courts in New York have not hesitated to issue QDRO’s as enforcement tools, and it is well accepted that “[d]efaults in support and maintenance obligations may be enforced by QDROs against pension fund accounts. See Keegan v. Keegan, 204 A.D.2d 606; Bumstead v. Rasisbeck, 230 A.D.2d 759.
However, courts are limited by the restriction, imposed by virtue of ERISA, that payments made not be directed in a manner that is contrary to the terms of the subject plan. Consequently, lump-sum payments are oftentimes not feasible.