Since 1994, Louise Nixon’s law practice has focused on retirement benefits, specifically determining the community or marital interest in pension benefits earned through employment and in consulting and/or drafting appropriate orders for the division and disposition of those interests. Ms. Nixon is founder and president of QDRO Counsel Inc., a professional law corporation.
Ms. Nixon spent many years practicing with Laquer, Urban, Clifford & Hodge LLP, a firm known for representing several union multi-employer trust funds, such as the Operating Engineers Pension Trust. While at the firm, Ms. Nixon managed all aspects of the review and approval process of QDROs, handled federal court litigation and negotiated cases in the employee benefits field involving complex pension issues. As a plan attorney, she drafted plan “sample QDROs” and “QDRO procedures,” and mediated between parties and the plan to resolve pension disputes.
Ms. Nixon keeps abreast of changes to ERISA, case law, other governmental codes or regulations affecting retirement plans. Her years of experience as an ERISA attorney enables her to prepare QDROs for all types of plans for parties in a divorce, to comprehensively review QDROs already prepared for compliance and fairness, and to reach solutions to complex pension issues. When retained by one or both parties in a divorce, Ms. Nixon incorporates her skills and experiences as a plan attorney in drafting the QDROs and maneuvering through the plan approval process. Over Ms. Nixon’s tenure in this area of law, she estimates to have drafted, reviewed and issued opinions on well over 10,000 QDROs.
Ms. Nixon received her BA from the University of California, Davis in 1984 and her JD from Whittier Law School in 1993. Before she began her legal career, Ms. Nixon worked as a legislative aide in Washington, D.C. and as public relations director for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Personally Ms. Nixon is involved with Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority as well as local church and community activities.
Ms. Nixon is a recurrent family law court appointed expert on QDROs. She is a frequent speaker for family law groups and Bar Associations, Family Law Executive Committee for the State Bar of California, employee benefit groups, and local to national continuing legal education (CLE) organizations, including California Family Law Reports (CFLR) a division of Thomson Reuters. She has written articles for the ACFLS and ABA Newsletter. She has been quoted in publications including the NY Times and WSJ. Ms. Nixon has been interviewed on Women’s Radio Network, Divorce Talk Radio, and Kobylt and Friends /RadioTV.
For over a decade, Ms. Nixon has prepared pro bono QDROs for the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law (hbcfl.org), a non-profit which provides free legal services for low income families in turmoil, and she continues to serve on its Board. “I regularly prepare QDROs for the Center often for someone such as a single mother living on the streets with children. Many times there are pension funds from the father’s employer that I can obtain for that mother to get her and her children off the streets!”
Speaker / Panelist
- Essentials on the Division of Retirement Benefits
- Hot Topic Retirement Benefit Issues For The Family Law Attorney
- Avoiding Disaster and Dealing with ERISA
- What Every Family Law Attorney Should Know When Drafting Judgment Language To Divide Retirement Benefits In Divorce (Practice Tips On How To Protect Your Clients’ Rights And Avoid Pitfalls)
- Retirement Division Issues With IRAs
- ERISA Cases That Impact Family Law Attorneys
- State Bar of California
- State Bar of Texas
- Repeatedly recognized as one of California’s Top Attorneys for Employee Benefits (as published in Pasadena Magazine)
- Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, 2012 Recipient, Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law
- Hall of Fame Award, 2015 Recipient, Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law
Ms. Duffy has been practicing law since 2006. Her practice at QDRO Counsel focuses exclusively on retirement benefits, drafting, reviewing and issuing opinions on QDROs. She handles for family law attorneys and/or their clients the division of all types of retirement plans, from qualified domestic relations orders for private plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), domestic relations orders for public or governmental plans, to IRC §408 Orders to divide Individual Retirement Accounts.
Ms. Duffy is familiar with and keeps abreast of changes to ERISA, case law, other governmental codes or regulations affecting retirement plans. Her prior litigation and family law experience is a great asset when navigating pension division through state court or negotiating issues with the parties.
Prior to QDRO Counsel, Ms. Duffy was a staff attorney for Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Her responsibilities included representing survivors of domestic violence who seek protection from their abusers and custody/visitation orders. She provided counsel, advice and representation in child custody, restraining order, and divorce cases for the Family Law Unit. Ms. Duffy also assisted low-income homeowners with issues of foreclosure rescue scams, financial elder abuse, fraud, forged deeds and other title issues and consumers with wrongful or unfair debt collection issues. Her responsibilities included the following: client advocacy on behalf of low-income homeowners facing foreclosure for the Consumer Law Unit, including interviewing and counseling clients, researching consumer law issues, analyzing facts and law and planning case strategy, drafting pleadings, legal documents, trial memoranda, and community education materials, negotiating case settlements, and making court appearances on law and motion and discovery matters.
Before Legal Aid, Ms. Duffy was an associate handling complex litigation in a fast-paced plaintiff law firm. Her practice areas included employment, consumer protection, defective products, and mass tort/personal injury. Her responsibilities consisted of case management, legal research and writing, drafting and responding to discovery, drafting and filing or e-filing pleadings, participating in meet and confer discussions, preparing plaintiffs and witnesses for deposition, defending depositions, interviewing potential class members, drafting declarations in preparation for class certification, conducting case investigations, supervising paralegals, and performing document review.
Ms.Duffy received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz where she double-majored in American Studies and Latin American/Latino Studies. She obtained her Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Ms. Duffy volunteers as a QDRO attorney for the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, a non-profit which provides free legal services for low income families in turmoil, and she continues to serve on its Board. She also is on the Board and Treasurer for the Latina Lawyers Bar Association, which provides scholarships for law students and recent law graduates studying for the bar exam. Ms. Duffy is fluent in Spanish.