The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on a case, Howell v. Howell, that may affect a military spouse’s entitlement to their ex’s retirement funds following a divorce.
The details of the case involve a Air Force veteran who elected to take non-taxable disability benefits resulting in an off-set to a portion of his military retirement pay for which he paid tax.
As a result of the change, his ex-wife of 25 years who was entitled to half of his retirement had her monthly payments reduced. She took her case to court, where she argued that she should receive half of what her ex-husband’s retirement funds ‘would have been’ had he not elected to take disability. The state courts agreed.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal law governing the disposition of military retirement pay in divorces and existing precedent does not allow state courts to treat retirement pay that has been waived to receive veterans’ disability as something that can be divided.
Following the ruling, the court acknowledged that federal statute makes things harder for former spouses of military members. One justice suggested that moving forward, state courts account for the possibility that a veteran could waive their pay in favor of disability and make provisions to recalculate spousal support for a later change in circumstance.
If you are a member of the U.S. military or a family member to an enlistee or officer of the Armed Forces, the Law Offices Schlesinger & Strauss LLC has the experience to resolve your military family law issues. Contact our Libertyville, Illinois military divorce lawyers for help with divorce, child custody and support, military spousal support in a divorce, and property division.