Complaint by the Medina County Bar Association to the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court of Ohio

Filed: September 4, 2014

What Happens ‘Behind the Scenes’ When a QDRO is Not Timely Administered?

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I try my best to avoid dropping the “M-bomb” whenever possible. However, occasionally, there is just no getting around it. 

[ENTER STAGE LEFT]  The attorney in this disciplinary case allegedly failed to file a QDRO attendant to a 1995 divorce action.  I share this case on the heels of two of my recent posts, wherein the courts in both Kentucky and Ohio were forced to deal with the aftermath of a party attempting to enter a QDRO 20 years after the decree of dissolution was entered. 

We all know what can happen in twenty years. Just ask my graying hair, thinning lips, and ever-increasing waistline (my wit only gets sharper with age, as you can plainly see). What happens is that we experience ‘life changes’ (no, don’t worry, that’s not where I’m going with this one)... Loss of employment, divorce, remarriage, divorce again, remarriage, financial crises, retirement, and death (taxes go in there somewhere too). Particularly in today’s climate where retirement assets are often a couple’s greatest (or only) marital asset, the negative consequences in failing to timely enter a QDRO can be significant, even life-altering, for the non-employee spouse.   

But what happens to the attorney who represents the client of a forgotten QDRO? Harkening back to another of my blog posts from the past, I think I’ll let someone else much more privy drop the M-Bomb:

[I]n response to the rising number of QDRO-related claims, it seems appropriate that this quarter’s Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company of Kentucky (LMICK) newsletter, The Risk Manager, spotlights “Avoiding Legal Malpractice and Bar Complaints in Family Law Cases”. The front page article, authored by Ms. Baxter, highlights the predominance of QDRO claims in Kentucky, and identifies two specific areas of attorney error in the preparation of a QDRO, including: (1) the failure of the QDRO to include the proper language, and (2) the failure to process the QDRO correctly. In presenting a solution, LMICK suggests that practitioners who anticipate a potential claim in this area should, among other things, retain a company or individual who specializes in the preparation of QDROS.

In its Complaint before the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, The Medina County Bar Association asserted that an attorney’s failure to ensure a QDRO was filed with the court and submitted to the retirement plan (after nearly twenty years) was violative of the professional code of conduct, specifically alleging that “such neglect caused irreparable harm to the grievant” and was “prejudicial to the administration of justice”. 

As you’ll see, I’ve redacted the names on the Complaint. That is because there’s no picking on this particular attorney for his failure to timely administer a QDRO. Rather, this is a recently exposed pandemic in the divorce world, as revealed by reiteration of my blog post above and my more recent blog posts dated July 20 and July 29, 2014. So what happens to the attorney that represents the client of a forgotten QDRO? The Medina County Bar Association alleged that an attorney’s failure to timely secure a QDRO in the course of representation is chargeable as professional misconduct, and requested disciplinary measures be taken by the Supreme Court of Ohio. 

As Paul Harvey would say (many more than twenty years ago)... And now you know the rest of the story.