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Supreme Court rules on property division in military divorce

With so much political drama and turmoil dominating the headlines in Cincinnati media, news of an important, recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling slipped through the cracks. The nation's high court ruled recently that states cannot change the amount of a veteran's retirement pay that a former spouse receives in order to make up for a loss caused by the vet's decision to receive disability benefits.

The decision could have impact property division agreements in divorces involving veterans who might one day apply for disability benefits.

The ruling came in the case of a couple that divorced in 1991. At the time, their property settlement included an agreement that the ex-wife would receive half of her ex's military retirement pay when he received it.

The next year, he retired from the Air Force after a 20-year stint and she began receiving the agreed-up half of his retirement pay.

More than a decade later, he filed a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, stating that degenerative joint disease in a shoulder was service-related. The claim was approved in 2005.

The monthly VA disability payments required him to waive an equal amount from his military retirement pay. That reduction in retirement pay immediately reduced the monthly amount that his ex-wife received by $127.

In 2013, she filed a motion to have her share of retirement pay increased to make up for the loss. An Arizona family court agreed with her and two years later, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the family court decision.

However, the USSC has reversed, ruling that the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act prevents states from indemnifying ex-spouses for reductions in their portion of retirement pay because their veteran ex opted for disability benefits.

You can discuss the issue with a qualified Hamilton County family law attorney experienced in military divorce litigation.

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