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Ruling may impact future military property division cases

For Louisiana residents who have also served as members of the United States military, determining how to divide military benefits is a top priority when their marriage is reaching an end. A recent court case has clarified how retirement savings will be handled after a divorce. That ruling has led to debate in many circles, and concern over how to structure the best possible property division settlement for military members and their spouses.

The case centered on a man who served in and retired from the Air Force. He and his wife divorced in 1991 after being married for 13 years. He retired a year after their divorce, and part of their agreement was that she would receive a 50 percent share of his retirement pay. Years later, he filed for and received VA disability due to a shoulder injury that came about during his time in service.

That led to a monthly disability payment of $262, and a resulting decrease in retirement pay in the same amount. When the disability payment kicked in, the former wife saw her monthly benefit decline by $131, which prompted the return to court. The former wife wanted that difference to be recovered, but the court saw the matter differently. The ruling held that a former spouse cannot be "indemnified" from any loss of retirement pay, which means that the former husband in this case will not be held responsible for replacing the lost benefits for his ex-wife.

Because this case made its way to the Supreme Court, the ruling will clarify the issue of retirement benefits and military divorce. There is also a chance that existing divorce cases across the nation could be reopened, although that outcome is not likely. What is clear is that spouses in Louisiana and elsewhere will need to make careful decisions during the property division process in order to avoid losses years after the divorce is made final.

Source: kitsapsun.com, "Court decision could change military divorce settlements", Tom Philpott, June 2, 2017

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