The US Supreme Court announced its decision today in Howell v. Howell.

Here’s a link to download in pdf for your review.

The issue before the US supreme court was whether state courts can order veterans to indemnity former spouses when the military veteran waives his military retirement pay in order to receive VA disability pay.  When a veteran waives a portion of the retired pay, the former spouse’s portion is reduced as well, to the benefit of the veteran and the detriment of the former spouse.

The Supreme Court held that the state court cannot order the veteran to reimburse the former spouse, citing Mansell v. Mansell and reversing the Arizona Supreme Court.

As it stands now, a member/retiree can unilaterally circumvent the rights of a former spouse by accepting VA compensation and waiving retired pay.  In the coming months, I expect that we will see proposals for legislation to address this issue.  In the meantime, this highlights the importance of including clauses for indemnification in the marital settlement agreement or otherwise addressing the indemnification through alimony.

If you have a question about the distribution of military retired pay in a divorce or military pension division, please contact Kirkner Family Law at (813) 254-0156.

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