#FamilyFriday – Military Retirement Pay, Disability Benefits, and Divorce.

Due to a recent Supreme Court decision, a former spouse may now lose a significant amount of their ex-spouse’s military retirement pay despite what was awarded to them in their Judgment of Absolute Divorce.  

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On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorney’s at ERA Law Group, LLC are discussing the recent change in how Court’s treat a service member’s waiver of retirement pay for disability benefits and the effects it may have on the former spouse.  A service member’s retirement pay is considered marital property.  Depending on the length of the marriage and the Court’s Order, a percentage of the marital portion of the retirement pay is reserved for the former spouse upon the service member’s retirement.  Due to a recent Supreme Court decision, a former spouse may now lose a significant amount of their ex-spouse’s military retirement pay despite what was awarded to them in their Judgment of Absolute Divorce.

In Maryland, upon entering a Judgment of Absolute Divorce, couples negotiate what, if any, percentage of the service member’s retirement pay will be awarded to the former spouse. If a service member applies for and receives disability benefits, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) automatically reduces the member’s retirement pension on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  This automatic waiver prevents members from double dipping and receiving both retirement pay and disability benefits.  In practice, in exchange for the disability benefits, a member’s retirement pay is decreased which also results in a decrease for the former spouse.  Put simply, the former spouse will receive a smaller piece of the pie than what was originally contemplated.

Until recently, Maryland and many other states, treated the award of the service member’s retirement pay as a contractual arrangement.  This permitted the former spouse to retain their agreed upon portion of the service member’s retirement pay if and when a service member obtained disability benefits or increased benefits after the divorce which resulted in a waiver of their retirement pay.  The Court interpreted the waiver as a dilution of the former spouse’s share.  Finding this arrangement unfair, Maryland Courts continued to enforce the award in the Judgment of Absolute Divorce.  In other words, the service member was still required to pay the difference.

A recent Supreme Court decision, Howell v. Howell, has changed the way Maryland and other states have treated such circumstances.  Now – regardless of what the award was – a former spouse is only entitled to receive a portion of the retirement pay even if that retirement pay is now significantly smaller.  The Supreme Court suggested that state courts consider the unreliability of the former spouse’s portion of retirement pay when making a marital award and, if applicable, compensate the spouse elsewhere.  For example, perhaps this would increase alimony or a lump sum award.

If you are a military spouse, call the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC today at (410) 919-1790 to ensure your rights and benefits are protected!

#FamilyFriday – Pendente Lite (“PL”) Hearings

You’ve filed an action in Court for child custody, child support, and/or visitation.  Meanwhile it’s been months since you’ve gotten financial support, visitation is inconsistent, and you’re concerned with the current living arrangements.  Your hearing date is months away or worse, not even scheduled.  What do you while you wait for your hearing? 

You’ve filed an action in Court for child custody, child support, and/or visitation.  Meanwhile it’s been months since you’ve gotten financial support, visitation is inconsistent, and you’re concerned with the current living arrangements.  Your hearing date is months away or worse, not even scheduled.  What do you while you wait for your hearing?  On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorney’s at ERA Law Group, LLC want to help families understand how to obtain temporary relief by way of a Pendente Lite hearing.

When couples divorce, separate, or parent in different households many find it difficult to decide how much child support, who should pay it, when they should pay it, and what visitation schedule is fair.  In the event an agreement cannot be reached or an informal arrangement is not working, one parent is often forced take action and ask the Court to enter an Order setting child support, custody, and visitation.  Unfortunately, in many counties it could take 6 or more months until a hearing date is set to settle the issues between the parties.  In that interim period parties are often at a loss as to how to deal with support or visitation.

Pendente Lite is a Latin term that translates to “awaiting/pending the litigation.”  Maryland Courts use a Pendente Lite hearing as an opportunity to create a temporary order related to child support, custody, visitation, and/or use and possession of the marital home while the parties await the final hearing on the merits.  In highly litigious cases, this also provides a good opportunity to get a glance at the other parties’ argument in support of their case for custody, support, and/or visitation and prepare accordingly for the final trial.  In some cases, the Pendente Lite hearing also encourages the parties’ to settle their dispute prior to the scheduled trial.

In most counties the Court will ask whether a Pendente Lite hearing is necessary during one of your first appearances at Court.  If you and the other party do have an agreement or arrangement, you may not find it necessary.  If you don’t have an arrangement, aren’t seeing your child, aren’t receiving child support, etc., you will want to be sure a Pendente Lite hearing is scheduled as soon as possible.

Call ERA Law Group, LLC today at (410) 919-1790 and ask how we can help you get the relief you need as soon as possible!

#FamilyFriday – Contempt

The very purpose of receiving a Court Order is to once and – hopefully – for all settle a dispute between the parties.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. 

On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC are addressing individuals who have fallen victim to an ex-spouse or parent who refuses to abide by the Court’s Order.  You’ve gotten divorced or filed suit for custody and support, the Judge made their determination and you received a Court Order outlining that decision.  What happens when one person decides not to listen?

Contempt is when one party decides to act in contradiction of the Court or Court Order.  The very purpose of receiving a Court Order is to once and – hopefully – for all settle a dispute between the parties.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  That intentional decision to ignore or act inconsistently with a Court Order is important because it qualifies the contempt as willful.  Being in willful contempt of a Court Order can have serious ramifications.  The contempt-ing party may be subject to a fine, attorney fees, and in serious cases, jail.

The contempt-ing party also creates various consequences for the other party.  For example, say a provision of the Order requires Parent A to pay one half of private school tuition to the school directly and Parent A refuses to pay.  If Parent A refuses to pay their share of the child’s private tuition than Parent B may have to come out-of-pocket for the balance and, if they can’t, their child may not be able to return the following year.  These and similar situations wreak havoc – financially and emotionally – for the party who correctly abides by the Court Order.

If you are being forced to endure the consequences of someone who has decided not to adhere to your Court Order, call your advocates at ERA Law Group, LLC today at (443) 906-3566!