ERISA-Idaho Supreme Court Finds A QDRO To Be Valid

In Kesting v. Kesting, Docket No. 42875, 2016 Opinion No. 35 (Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, February 2016 Term), Appellant, Linda Kesting (“Linda”), obtained a judgment against Respondent, James Kesting (“James”), for breach of an alimony/spousal support agreement entered into during their divorce. When that judgment was returned without recovery, the magistrate judge issued a Judgment of Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”). The subsequent judgment was intended to allow recovery of the unpaid spousal support and associated attorney fees from James’ pension plan. James appealed to the district court, which reversed.

The district court concluded that the QDRO was not valid because the spousal support agreement was not merged into the divorce decree and, therefore, the QDRO was not issued pursuant to the State’s domestic relations law as required under ERISA. Linda timely appealed.

Upon reviewing the case, the Supreme Court of Idaho (the “Court”) said that the district court erred in holding the QDRO invalid. It said that the central question is whether, as required to be valid under ERISA, the QDRO was made pursuant to a state domestic relations law. The Court ruled that it was, stating that a QDRO is issued pursuant to Idaho’s domestic relations law when, as here, it is issued to enforce a judgment for breach of a spousal support agreement and complies with the Title 11 of the Idaho Code. Thus, the Court reversed the district court’s decision and found the QDRO to be valid.

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