ILNews

Court rules on military retirement benefits during divorce

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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State courts can't treat military retirement pay waived for veterans' disability pay as marital property to be divided during divorce, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Citing caselaw from the nation's highest court, a unanimous three-judge panel reversed and remanded a Randolph County decision in William A. Griffin, Jr. v. Shari L. Griffin, No. 68A01-0611-CV-491.

William and Shari married in 1985 and divorced in 2006, agreeing as part of the dissolution to divide in half his $1,522 retirement pay from the U.S. Air Force. But when William applied for disability benefits from the Veterans Administration, he was told he'd have to waive part of his military retirement benefits. He did so and paid half of that remaining portion to his former wife, who later filed a contempt petition accusing him of failing to make the required pension payments.

Randolph Circuit Judge Jay Toney entered a post-dissolution order clarifying the parties' property settlement agreement, holding that William Griffin would have to pay Shari Griffin 50 percent of his total military retirement income, including disability payments.

The appellate court disagreed, citing Supreme Court of the United States decisions in Mansell v. Mansell, 490 U.S. 581, 109 S. Ct. 2023 (Mansell I) that held VA disability benefits are not divisible marital property. Shari Griffin had argued at the lower level Mansell I didn't apply because of subsequent decisions on remand.

"Following Mansell I, the statute in question has undergone revisions, but the basis for the Mansell I opinion remains in the statute - state courts do not have the authority to treat military retirement pay that has been waived to receive veterans' disability benefits as property divisible upon divorce," the court wrote.
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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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