The "Q" in QDRO refers to being qualified under ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) and section 414(p) of the Internal Revenue Code. CalPERS is a governmental plan, under 414(d) of the Internal Revenue Code, so it is not a "qualified plan". Court orders dividing CalPERS benefits are called "DROs" instead of "QDROs". The 10% early withdrawal penalty will be waived on a CalPERS distribution pursuant to a DRO (as long as the marriage is recognized under federal law, i.e. as long as it is not a same sex marriage or domestic partnership).
If you are seeking an immediate payment from CalPERS, the member must not yet be retired, and you must select the "separation of account" method of divsion in order to receive a refund of contributions. We have some great information about CalPERS and divorce at the link labeled "CalPERS info" below. You can also call CalPERS for more information at 888-CALPERS - but be ready to wait 40 minutes in order to talk to a representative.
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They are the same thing. The Q stands for "qualified" but this word sometimes gets dropped from usage. It's still a Domestic Relations Order, dividing your retirement benefits.
CalPERS has model DRO forms that they'll share with you upon request - usually when you serve it with your joinder (see the court's list of forms for Joinder - Employee Benefit Plan).
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