Supreme Court overturns decision regarding disability in divorce

Often, couples in Louisiana make the decision to end their marriage after they have spent many years together. For military couples, it may be especially difficult for a spouse to be employed -- should he or she choose -- because of the need to move every few years, making it difficult to contribute to retirement savings. However, former spouses are likely entitled to a portion of retirement benefits from the other spouse under certain circumstances. The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that settled a hotly contested issue regarding the division of military disability following a divorce when a former spouse was awarded a share of her husband's retirement pay.

The case involves an Air Force veteran and his former wife. When they divorced in 1991, the woman was awarded half of her ex-husband's military retirement pay. However, in 2005, the man was given a 20 percent disability rating and became eligible for disability pay. Veterans who receive disability pay have to waive the same portion from their retirement pay-- a decision that many choose to do because disability pay is not taxable. In this case, the man was receiving $1,500 in retirement; when he opted to receive $250 a month in disability pay, his month pension pay was reduced to $1,250.

This decision also reduced the amount his ex-wife would receive by $125 a month. As a result, she went to court, claiming that she should receive half of what his retirement pay was prior to his decision to accept disability. She argued that since her former husband made the decision to waive part of his retirement pay after their divorce, she should still receive half of the full amount of his retirement pay before a portion was waived for disability. While the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in her favor, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently overturned that ruling.

Many couples in Louisiana are able to come to an amicable agreement regarding their divorce without involving the court. However, in cases involving a complicated division of assets, for example, there may be no choice but to ask the court to intercede. Regardless, a person seeking to end his or her marriage likely wants a professional with experience with the process to guide them through.

Source:, "Supreme Court rules in veteran's favor in closely watched divorce settlement case", Shawn Snow, May 17, 2017

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