Making a mistake when drafting a QDRO can be very costly for both you and your client. Family Lawyer Magazine recently interviewed Tim Voit, the founder of the American Association of Certified QDRO Professionals, about what those interested in becoming proficient in drafting a flawless QDROs need to know.
Many family lawyers and financial experts regularly draft or assess QDROs. Are they all QDRO experts?
Tim Voit: The number of individuals drafting QDROs in divorce is at an all-time high. Some are paralegals and attorneys, some are CDFAs and CPAs, and some are investment advisors who will invest the QDRO distributions. Very few would be considered experts as their degrees and certifications are unrelated to QDROs.
Tell us about the American Association of Certified QDRO Professionals (AACQP) and the Certified QDRO Specialist (CQS) designation.
The AACQP offers a certification program that not only teaches you how to prepare and review QDROs, but also provides you with the knowledge to meet the Daubert challenge when providing expert testimony. A CQS is a trained professional who specializes in the preparation of QDROs and similar orders, and who divides retirement plans as marital property or for spousal support and child support. The AACQP awards the CQS designation to professionals who have passed the certification exam. The course is available online at www.aacqp.org.
What does the CQS certification program cover? How long will it take to complete?
This program is designed to give individuals the training to be considered QDRO experts. Although the program emphasizes the preparation of QDROs, it also addresses military and federal government retirement plans and IRAs. Candidates also learn how to facilitate QDRO distributions for investment advisors. There are four modules with a corresponding test at the end of each one; these tests are designed to help prepare the candidate for the final certification exam. The final exam can be taken online or it can be proctored for investment advisors. A seasoned professional could complete the CQS program in a few months – but for those not familiar with QDROs, or those who are working full-time, it could take six months to a year to complete.
Why should a lawyer or financial professional become a CQS?
Becoming a CQS provides your client with the assurance that you have formal training in preparing QDROs. It also allows you to advise on settlement agreement language, help avoid problems with entering QDROs, and provide expert witness testimony. Many of our members have told us that creating a new revenue stream by drafting or assessing QDROs themselves, rather than outsourcing the task, is one of the main reasons they became a CQS; that, and the ability to avoid liability.
Can anyone become a CQS?
Financial degrees are helpful – whether it be a degree in finance, accounting, or actuarial science – but not required. The designation places more emphasis on practical applications than financial calculations. An expanded version of CQS, the Certified QDRO Analyst program (available later this year), will appeal to those who provide analytical services in pension valuations or other similar valuations.
You recently revamped the CQS program. What has changed?
The most significant change is that we now outsource the testing so that each exam can be either taken online or proctored (if necessary) anywhere in the country.
Tim Voit has over 25 years of experience in drafting QDROs. He has been retained in legal malpractice cases to fix QDROs; he has testified in state and federal courts; and he has been interviewed extensively by the media, including Forbes and Reuters, regarding QDROs and retirement accounts. www.aacqp.org
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Are You Afraid to Tackle Complex QDROs?
In this podcast, Family Lawyer Magazine publisher Dan Couvrette interviews pension and QDRO expert Tim Voit and family lawyer Robert Burgs about the role of a Certified QDRO Specialist and the value of becoming a member of the American Association of Certified QDRO Professionals.