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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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