In 1993, John and Lynette were divorced. Their agreement required John to divide his retirement benefits with Lynette. In 2004, John stopped working. He began receiving disability benefits. John refused to divide his disability benefits with Lynette. She went to court. The trial court agreed with Lynette. John appealed.
The Appellate court agreed with the Trial court. Some pension plans provide disability benefits as well as retirement benefits. If the divorce decree refers only to “retirement” benefits and is silent as to disability payments, the court can go two ways. It depends on the facts of the particular case.
Suppose a disabled ex-husband is not yet eligible for retirement pay. A marital settlement agreement might entitle the ex-wife to “retirement” benefits. That should not be interpreted to grant her a share of her ex-husband’s disability income.
John was entitled to retirement benefits. He chose to receive disability benefits instead. The amount of disability pension John receives is exactly the same as he would receive as a retirement benefit. Lynette is entitled to what she would receive from his retirement benefits.
John’s payments are labeled “disability payments.” But, they are, essentially, retirement benefits. His disability benefits are not income replacement. They are a replacement for his retirement pension.
In re Marriage of Schurtz, No. 3-07-0345.
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