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Insurance presents first-impression issue

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The Indiana Court of Appeals determined today for the first time that post-retirement health insurance premiums paid by a former employer aren't a marital asset subject to a division.

In Anne M. Bingley v. Charles B. Bingley, No. 02A03-0904-CV-187, Anne Bingley appealed the division of assets in the dissolution of her marriage to Charles Bingley. The trial court order didn't include Charles' employer-paid, post-retirement health insurance premiums.

Anne argued the payments fall under subsection 2 of Indiana Code Section 31-9-2-98(b), as a retirement benefit not forfeited upon the termination of employment, and cited several Indiana cases that found pension benefits to be marital assets.

But the Court of Appeals ruled the premiums weren't a marital asset subject to division. The cases Anne cited involved monthly monetary payments made directly to the pension-holding spouse; Charles' benefit wasn't payable to him but was non-elective and couldn't be divided or transferred, wrote Judge Elaine Brown.

The appellate court found Gnerlich v. Gnerlich, 538 N.E.2d 285 (Ind. Ct. App. 1989), and Antonacopulos v. Antonacopulos, 753 N.E.2d 759 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001), to be instructive in that the underlying principle applied in those cases is that insurance policy coverage as part of an employee's retirement package may be included in the marital estate only when marital assets were used to obtain the benefits. Benefits that are purely supplemental are properly excluded from the marital estate, she wrote.

Judge Terry Crone wrote a concurring in result opinion in which he wondered if the Indiana General Assembly intended to define "retirement benefits" and "vested" in terms of the Internal Revenue Code. As it's currently written, I.C. Section 31-9-2-98(b) doesn't answer the question.

"If the legislature did intend to define 'retirement benefits' and 'vested' in terms of the Internal Revenue Code, then the health insurance premiums at issue would not be considered 'retirement benefits' and therefore would not be considered marital property subject to division," he wrote. "If the opposite is true, then we are left with the case law on which the majority relies as guidance for determining whether the premiums are 'retirement benefits' that are 'vested' under Indiana law."

He wants the legislature to address this perceived ambiguity.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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