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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. 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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