Sunday, August 26, 2007

Military pensions draft

The Indiana Court of Appeals holds "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." That is William A. Griffin, Jr. v. Shari L. Griffin (PDf format) decided on August 23. The Court of Appeals dives into a lot of federal law in this decision - something not terribly common in family law cases.

A few pertinent notes:

  1. The Court of Appeals reached this decision even though the parties agreed to this division of military retirement benefits.
  2. The trial court seems to have based its decision on how the parties treated the phrase Military Retirement. Sometimes the parties used no initial capitals and other times they did. It seems that the trial court started down the path towards error due to this drafting error. (See opinion at 4).
  3. Two issues remain untouched in this opinion: A) what remedy the non-military party has when the other party unilaterally reduces their military pension and B) whether equitable remedies are available when Ind. Code § 31-15-7-9.1 forbids modifying property settlement agreements except in cases of fraud. (See opinion at 9, footnote 2).

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