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U.S. Supreme Court taking up case on divorce and military pensions

Military divorces can involve a range of unique things, including unique assets. One type of asset that could end up taking center stage in such a divorce is a military pension. Lawyers skilled in military divorce issues can give veterans and spouses of veterans here in Ohio guidance on pension-related matters and other special concerns that can arise in military divorces.

Military pensions have a range of special legal rules connected to them. Given these rules, complex issues can arise regarding these pensions when it comes to divorce. Sometimes, such issues end up going all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court for clarification.

Take, for example, a case that the Supreme Court is taking up next year. Its eventual decision in this case could provide clarification on the issue of disability-related offsets of a military pension divided in a divorce.

The case involves an Air Force veteran who got divorced in the early 90s. In the divorce, the man and his ex-wife split the man’s upcoming military pension 50-50.

Over a decade after the divorce, the man decided to take an offset of his pension in order to get full VA disability benefits following being given a 20 percent disability rating. Reportedly, under federal law, he wouldn’t have been able to get full disability benefits without agreeing to the offset. This offset reduced the amount of the pension, which in turn reduced the value of his ex-wife’s portion of it.

His ex-wife asked a family court in Arizona to order the man to make payments to her to make up for the pension reduction, and the court granted her request. In appeals in Arizona courts, this decision was upheld.

In the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the man argues that federal law that bars ex-spouses from collecting on a veteran’s disability payments prohibits states from granting requests like the one made by his ex-wife. He thus argues that the family court’s ruling should be overturned.

The case is expected to be heard sometime next year. It will be interesting to see what the court ends up deciding in this case regarding whether federal law does ban these kinds of make-up payments. One wonders what impacts the decision will have on divorce-related military pension law here in America.

Source: Military.com, “Supreme Court May Change Divorce Pension Payments,” Amy Bushatz, Dec. 8, 2016

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