In a matter of first impression regarding when a qualified domestic relations order must be filed, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a woman who waited 20 years after her divorce to have her ex-husband sign a QDRO for division of his pension may still be able to submit it.
Katherine Ryan and Larry Janovsky divorced in 1991. Their settlement agreement included a provision dividing Janovsky’s pension, but Ryan did not present a proposed QDRO for his signature until 2012. He refused to sign it, leading to Ryan filing a verified petition for contempt and rule to show cause, alleging her ex-husband was in contempt of the settlement agreement by not signing it.
The trial court ruled in favor of Janovsky, who argued the equitable defense of laches and waiver and that the statute of limitations had run. Janovsky had not yet received any payments of his pension when Ryan sought the QDRO.
The Court of Appeals, since it had not ruled on this issue before, pointed to rulings from Tennessee and New York to reverse the trial court in Katherine Ryan v. Larry Janovsky, 45A03-1304-DR-145.
“We agree with Janovsky and the trial court that the delay was ‘inordinate,’” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote, “and we note that Ryan offered no explanation for the extremely lengthy delay in preparing the QDRO. Nonetheless, we cannot agree that the delay has caused the forfeiture of Ryan’s right to a portion of Janovsky’s pension benefits. Ryan’s right to part of Janovsky’s pension benefits arises from the settlement agreement; the QDRO only creates her right to be paid directly from the pension plan. And neither of these rights is yet enforceable because Janovsky’s pension benefits are not yet payable to anyone.
“Allowing Janovsky to retain the entirety of his pension benefits because of the delayed preparation of a QDRO is supported by neither law nor equity: the statute of limitations and caselaw relied upon by Janovsky do not support his position, and the trial court’s order leads to an inequitable result that cannot stand.”
The cause is remanded for further proceedings.