Hernsberger QDRO Law April 2019

April 2019

QDRO Law Experts for Your Law Firm

Built on a Philosophy of Education

Before I became a judge, I was a board-certified specialist in family law. Back then, I saw a lot of lawyers working through divorce cases involving retirement assets. It’s no secret that retirement in divorce can be an incredibly complicated topic. On top of that, a qualified domestic relations order — QDRO or “qua-dro” — is very technical. At the time, I was versed in QDROs, though not nearly as versed as I am today. Even then, I had colleagues and other lawyers asking me about QDROs, and there was never a shortage of questions, so I did what I could to answer them. Later on, while serving on the bench, it became clear that few attorneys knew what they were doing in regards to QDROs. If an attorney got something wrong, the client was the one who got hurt. The order would have to be rejected. When I did step down from the bench, I thought about where I wanted to go next. I didn’t want to get back into family law. I had already spent time working through child custody issues and visitation rights on top of divorce and separation. Instead, I turned my attention back to QDROs. I thought about what would happen if I specialized in one specific area of the law. I already had a strong base knowledge I could put to work. Plus, I saw a need in the legal community. Even highly experienced attorneys were making mistakes — and many of those mistakes were early in the QDRO process. I wanted to make a change; attorneys were negotiating the wrong terms or they had missed a small but crucial detail. For instance, they might

spell out that the husband must give the wife $100,000 from his pension plan. The problem is you can’t do that with a pension plan. It’s not as simple as divvying it up like that. But not everyone realizes this. As a result, the QDRO is denied.

“As our firm grows and we work with more clients, it’s become more fulfilling, both personally and professionally.”

QDRO isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. There is a lot that must be taken into account. I wanted to be an educator for other attorneys and help them avoid the mistakes that can cost their clients a lot. And I can say that is exactly what I have become. As our firm grows and we work with more clients, it’s become more fulfilling, both personally and professionally. On a personal level, there’s a major sense of accomplishment that comes with being an early pioneer in the field — not just in Texas, but the country. We have built proprietary systems and processes, many of which I created from scratch. Professionally, I’m proud of what we have accomplished so far with those systems. We’ve gone beyond preparing documents and made something of a culture shift among lawyers who practice family law. We don’t just prepare documents. At a glance, it may seem like that, but we’re really here to serve as a guide through the entire process of dividing a retirement in divorce. While we can’t necessarily make the documents less complicated, we can take some of the complications out of the process. I don’t want to see attorneys make mistakes in the courtroom — particularly when I know those mistakes can be avoided. Education is the first step in making that happen, and when it comes to QDROs, education counts for a lot.

–Judge Stephen Hernsberger

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