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Court ruling might affect Texas military divorces

Monday, December 11, 2017

A court ruling could set a precedent for future cases involving a Texas military divorce. The current ruling states that any military retirement pay that is converted into disability benefits is now exempt from being claimed as alimony. This decision reverses a prior victory for a spouse who was seeking benefits from her ex-husband after their military divorce.

Initially, the woman was granted 40 percent of her military spouse's disposable retirement pay for a period of 10 years. However, the man chose to convert some of his retirement pay into disability benefits after choosing to take a rating of 60 percent disability. He provided none of those benefits to his ex.

She sued him and claimed that his failure to pay was denying her the right to her portion of his benefits. Initially, a judge sided with her and ordered the man to pay. However, the decision was appealed and Mississippi's highest court reversed the lower court's decision, stating that a 1989 Supreme Court ruling barred the state's divorce court from dividing someone's military benefits. The court stated that federal law overrules state law and the state courts cannot distribute the man's benefits 'contrary to federal law.'

Should the Texas Supreme Court hear such a case, it could make a similar ruling, which could impact the manner in which a Texas military divorce case is handled. Military personnel make sacrifices throughout their military careers and sometimes those sacrifices result in disability benefits being awarded to them. The prospect of dividing those hard-earned benefits with an ex-spouse likely served a blow to the service member and his financial planning. Fortunately, the court has ruled in his favor and has allowed him to keep the benefits he has chosen to convert.

Source: Sunherald.com, "State high court says no divorce share of military benefits," Jack Elliott Jr., Sept. 3, 2012

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