The Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday that a trial court did not impermissibly modify a property settlement agreement or decree, but simply clarified that the intent of the parties was to divide the marital property acquired during the marriage and before the final date of separation.
Judith Lund Pherson sought half of the pension her ex-husband Michael Lund earned from his employer in the 18 ½ years after the two divorced. At the time of their divorce in 1991, the two agreed that Pherson would be entitled to half of Lund’s Tier II benefits from his railroad employer. When he retired after 42 years of service, Pherson began receiving half of the benefits. But Lund sought clarification from the court whether his ex-wife could claim a portion of the retirement funds he earned after their divorce.
The trial court clarified that the pension benefits earned in those 18 ½ years didn’t exist at the time of the divorce as a marital asset. The Court of Appeals affirmed in Judith (Lund) Pherson v. Michael Lund, 52A04-1304-DR-180.
“It is true that Indiana law ‘encourages’ divorcing spouses to reach agreements and the spouses ‘have more flexibility in crafting their own property settlement agreements than do divorce courts,’” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote, citing Wilson v. Wilson, 716 N.E.2d 486, 489 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). “Parties may agree to provisions which a trial court has no statutory authority to order. Husband and Wife in this case could have agreed to divert Husband’s after-acquired funds to Wife as alimony or maintenance. However, the Agreement is devoid of any language suggesting this intent. We agree with the trial court that the Agreement was not intended to divide the future earnings of one spouse. Its sole objective was to divide property acquired before the date of final separation.”