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COA reverses decree award of military benefits

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a portion of a divorce decree awarding some of the husband's military benefits and housing allowance to his wife because the separation agreement excluded granting the wife any rights to them.
 
In Timothy D. Wolshire v. Sharon M. Wolshire, No. 16A05-0812-CV-722, Timothy Wolshire appealed the divorce decree which added language to the provision of the parties' separation agreement governing the division of proceeds from the sale of the marital home; awarded Sharon a portion of his military benefits; and gave her a portion of Timothy's military housing allowance he received after the two separated.

The Wolshires filed for legal separation in September 2005; Sharon had an attorney and Timothy appeared pro se. They entered into a separation agreement awarding the marital home to Sharon and the amount Timothy would get if she sold the home. Under "Other Property," the provision stated except for anything otherwise specifically provided for in the separation agreement, Sharon or Timothy would retain separate and exclusive property of anything they already owned or arising out of the marital relationship.

After they separated, but before they officially divorced, Timothy began serving full time in the National Guard and received a basic allowance for housing in March 2006. In September 2007, he began sending the allowance to Sharon based on the advice of a military attorney. But because of the separation agreement, he wasn't legally required to send it.

In September 2008, the trial court issued its decree of dissolution and stuck to the separation agreement except it added language regarding the sale of the marital home that made Timothy responsible for repair and replacement of existing structures upon sale of the home. The trial court also awarded Sharon four months of housing allowance for a total of $5,648 and determined she'd be eligible for a portion of Timothy's military retirement benefits.

The Court of Appeals reversed the disputed portions of the divorce decree because the trial court should have followed the language in the separation agreement instead of adding in new language regarding the marital home or benefits.

When the parties entered into the agreement, there was no mention of Timothy's military benefits. Sharon testified that the benefits just didn't come up when they were putting together the agreement, but a mere oversight doesn't allow the trial court to grant her the benefits when the separation agreement doesn't specify, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

In regards to Timothy's basic allowance for housing, those payments fall under the "Other Property" provision of the separation agreement and should remain only his property. Sharon's argument that the trial court should have dealt with the allowance because the agreement doesn't mention them is problematic because it would render the "Other Property" provision meaningless, the judge wrote. Because the allowance and benefits weren't specifically mentioned in the separation agreement, and because they were issued to Timothy, the trial court erred in awarding a portion of them to Sharon.

The parties lost any right they might have in later-acquired property when they entered into the separation agreement, and that's a risk Sharon took by signing the agreement, wrote Judge Riley. The case is remanded with instructions to amend the dissolution decree in accordance with the opinion.

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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