INTRODUCTION – If you have started to research the QDRO process, you may have seen a reference to the Joinder process. Joinder is a process of joining a third party to a lawsuit. California Family Code, Section 2443 provides for the Joinder of the Plan Administrator of any retirement plan holding community assets. Family Code 2060(a) provides that upon written application by a party, a retirement plan that either party claims an interest in shall be joined by the Family Court clerk.
PURPOSE – Once the Plan Administrator is joined it is subject to the Court’s jurisdiction. That means that the Court can order the Plan Administrator directly to take action. This may be necessary in a case where the parties disagree on the disposition of retirement plan assets.
PROCESS – Joinder of a retirement plan is completed by filing the following forms: (1) A copy of the pleading on joinder. (2) A copy of the request for joinder and order of joinder. (3) A copy of the summons (joinder). Once you have filed the Forms, you must serve a copy on the Plan Administrator along with a blank copy of a notice of appearance in form and content approved by the Judicial Council. The Plan will have 30 days to file a response.
USES – Joinder is also effective to freeze the party’s assets in the Plan. There may be a risk that the participating employee will take money from the retirement plan before you have time to complete the QDRO process. Once you serve the Joinder documents on the Plan Administrator, they will typically freeze the participating party’s account to allow you time to complete the QDRO. Another important use of the Joinder process is where you aren’t sure of the exact name of the Plan. If you file a Joinder with the incorrect name of the Plan, the Plan Administrator will typically provide you with the correct name of the Plan. You must have the correct name of the Plan to have a valid QDRO.