Throughout Illinois, thousands of municipal employees have pension benefits through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (abbreviated as “IMRF”). To the extent those pension benefits are earned while the employee is married, those pension benefits can be divided in a divorce case by way of a special court order known as a Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Order (abbreviated as “QILDRO”). A QILDRO is separate from a judgment for dissolution of marriage or a marital settlement agreement, which specifies the rights of each of the parties. Rather, it is an order directing the IMRF to split the pension benefits in accordance with very specific instructions.
The Illinois Pension Code contains very specific instructions as to what information a QILDRO must contain in order for the IMRF to comply with the court’s order to divide pension benefits. In fact, the Illinois Pension Code even includes a sample fill-in-the-blanks form containing pre-printed language and boxes to check. The IMRF uses the form as specified in the pension code.
Because a QILDRO is a fill-in-the-blanks form, it does not allow many options for the parties to customize the way they divide pension benefits in a divorce case. Thus, it is possible for there to be a conflict between the terms of a judgment for dissolution of marriage and the terms of the QILDRO that the IMRF must process. In the event of such a conflict, which terms would control?