If you're entering the life stage of remarriage after a divorce, you may lose some income such as alimony, but you'll potentially retain other benefits such as a share of your ex-spouse's retirement pension. The document that spells out the do's and don'ts of these details is called a "qualified domestic relations order" -- QDRO. Typically, you won't lose the income from your ex-husband's pension if you remarry, because the QDRO document ensures your continued right to receive these funds.
Alimony and child-support payments may cease if you remarry or if your child reaches the age of majority, but property settlements such as your ex-husband's pension typically continue, uninterrupted, when you remarry.
Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
Qualified domestic relations orders, commonly referred to as QDROs, are legal instruments that allow a retirement plan administrator to pay out benefits to someone other than the individual who earned them. Federal law prohibits this unless a QDRO exists that authorizes such payments.
A QDRO is a separate document from your divorce decree or judgment, although your decree must order the QDRO before your ex-husband's retirement plan administrator will accept it. QDROs are necessary for transferring assets in 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, 457 plans, profit sharing plans, tax-sheltered annuities and private pensions. They're not typically necessary for IRAs or government retirement benefits.
Spouse's Property Entitlement
In most cases, a QDRO transfers a spouse's marital share of the other's pension. It's a method of property settlement. You're entitled to a share of your ex-husband's contributions from the date of your marriage through the date of your separation or divorce, provided those years overlap with the employment years.
Contributions made before you married or after your marriage ended don't count – you have no right to this money. Because this money represents distribution of a marital asset, your remarriage should not affect the QDRO or your right to these funds.
Other Purposes of QDROs
Occasionally, courts may order QDROs to provide for spousal or child support payments, particularly if the pension owner is older and this is his primary source of income. If the income you receive under the terms of a QDRO is alimony-related rather than a property settlement, it can be affected by your remarriage.
QDROs that address alimony usually include specific language that terminates the support if the receiving spouse marries again. Likewise, if your QDRO provides for child support and your last child emancipates and leaves the nest so he no longer requires financial support, QDRO payments typically end as well. If any portion of the benefits you receive relate to property settlement, however, this part should remain intact.
Understanding Survivor Benefits
Survivor benefits might also fall outside of the scope of property distribution. If your QDRO specifically states that you receive survivor benefits upon the death of your ex-husband, you should continue to receive this money regardless of whether either you or your ex-husband remarries.
If your ex remarries, however, his new spouse won't receive survivor benefits in the event of his death. Your QDRO diverts this right to you. If your QDRO doesn't include this language, survivor benefits typically transfer to your ex-husband's new spouse if he remarries.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She specializes in personal finance and w, bankruptcy, and she writes as the tax expert for The Balance.