#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!

#TuesdayTips – *CRASH* Now what?

If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident it is imperative that you know your rights and what steps to take to ensure maximum compensation for your injuries.

You’ve been involved in a car accident.  Best case scenario, you’re not injured.  Worst case scenario, you are.  If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident it is imperative that you know your rights and what steps to take to ensure maximum compensation for your injuries.  On this week’s #TuesdayTips article, the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC want to help those looking to recoup after suffering an injury from a car accident.

  • First, get medical treatment. Don’t wait.  Go to the ER, your primary care, a specialist, physical therapy, etc.  There are many medical providers that will offer their services even if you don’t have insurance.
  • Second, get a copy of your police report and, if there was one completed, the accident investigation report. Find out as much information about the other driver as possible including their name, insurance information, vehicle type, and the circumstances leading up to the accident.
  • Third, if you’ve missed work or are now out of work because of your injuries, get documentation.  Have your employer (or former employer) print out the days you’ve missed, your hourly rate, any changes or accommodations made to your employment as a result of your injuries or disability, and any other details about your employment.
  • Fourth, get a disability rating. Perhaps you’ve injured your hand and are no longer able to use it, you’ll never be able to walk again, or can’t raise your arm above your head.  These considerations are important in filing your claim.
  • Lastly, take care of you! Hiring an attorney will help take the administrative and legal pressure from you and give you the opportunity to make sure you and your family get back on your feet.

Call the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC today at (443) 906-3566.  Let us help you while you and your family recover!

#TuesdayTips – When to NOT Do-It-Yourself

Many individuals find themselves in a precarious situation when they decide to handle certain matters without an attorney.  These “cost saving measures” sometimes result in quite a heavy burden.

This week’s #TuesdayTips article comes one day after a recent United States Tax Court ruling in the case of Summers v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (Docket No. 32259-15).  Many individuals find themselves in a precarious situation when they decide to handle certain matters without an attorney.  These “cost saving measures” sometimes result in quite a heavy burden.

In this specific case, Mr. Summers and his wife divorced amicably and decided to move forward without attorneys.  Pursuant to their agreement, Mr. Summers was to withdraw funds from his IRA and provide them to his wife.  Typically, this is done via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).  Pursuant to 26 U.S. Code Section 72(t)(1), distributions from a QDRO are exempt from the 10% additional tax typically imposed on early distributions.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Summers, taking an early distribution made directly to himself would not qualify for the tax exemption even though he immediately transferred said funds to his wife for her sole benefit.  As a result of an honest mistake, Mr. Summers was forced to suffer the 10% early distribution tax.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to an honest mistake.  The attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC offer fixed fee QDRO services!  Call us today at (443) 906-3566.