Is a Divorce Decree a Qualified Domestic Relations Order ?

In Hawkins v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 86 F.3d 982 (10th Cir. 1996), the Hawkins's were divorced by a New Mexico district court, and as a compromise distribution of the community property, the wife was awarded cash of one million dollars from the husband's pension plan. This distribution was made, but when neither party reported it as income on their separately filed tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued notices of deficiency to both sides. The United States Tax Court concluded that the divorce decree did not constitute a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) and ordered the husband to include the one million dollar distribution in his gross income. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed and held that the decree was a QDRO. Hawkins, 86 F.3d at 993-94. It further held that, under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code dealing with distributions from qualified retirement plans, the wife was an "alternate payee" and was responsible for payment of all income taxes associated with her award. Id.