Counseling Project Success Stories

Trellis Ensures Full Share of Retirement Benefits for Survivor of Domestic Violence 

Mary, a survivor of domestic violence during her marriage, represented herself in her divorce from her abusive ex-husband. After the divorce was granted, Mary reached out to Trellis and the Retirement Rights Project for help dividing her ex-husband’s retirement benefits.  

A volunteer attorney for Iowa Legal Aid and the Project drafted a legal document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which described the specific benefits owed to Mary and needed to be sent for approval to the plan administratorthe person who ran the 401(k) at her ex-husband’s employer.  

 The plan administrator told Mary’s attorney that Mary’s ex-husband had withdrawn money from the retirement account, which meant that Mary’s share of the benefits would be reduced.  

 However, the attorney was able to resolve the situation in Mary’s favor by getting Mary’s ex-husband to continue contributing money into the account until it was replenished sufficiently so that Mary could receive her full share of $24,000. Once the QDRO was finalized and accepted by her ex-husband’s plan, the attorney filed the QDRO in court and Mary ultimately got her full distribution.  

 Learn more about the Trellis Pension and Retirement Rights Project and the Pension Counseling and Information Program. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.  

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