This case (Goslee v. Goslee, Ark. App. 2012, CA-11-1139) took a dramatic turn several months after the divorce was final.
The parties entered into an agreement in their divorce. Part of that agreement provided the following provision: “Husband agrees to pay Wife half of his monthly pension each and every month for as long as he draws it.”
At the time of the divorce, Mr. Goslee received a monthly military-disability payment in the gross amount of $2283, which he had been receiving since he left the military due to his diabetes. For the next nine months following the entry of the divorce decree, Mr. Goslee paid half of this disability payment to Ms. Goslee.
Then he stopped. His reason? His monthly disability payment is not a "pension." Ms. Goslee filed a motion for contempt because he was obviously not complying with the decree nor was he complying with their property settlement agreement. She had relied on the anticipated monthly income from Mr. Goslee's disability payments when she entered into the agreement.
They have a hearing and the circuit court sides with the ex-husband. Reading the provision above, nothing is mentioned about his disability payments - it only says "pension." The court further found that the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (FSPA) does not grant states the power to treat such disability payments as divisible property.
Ouch for the wife. Could this have been avoided? It certainly appears that in coming up with the property settlement agreement that the parties intended for the monthly disability payments to be split in half, with half going to Ms. Goslee. The primary reason I think this is because Mr. Goslee began paying Ms. Goslee half of his monthly disability payments and did so for 9 months.
And then there is the problem of these payments, and likely the pension, not being divisible in this situation due to certain federal law.
I think some creative drafting of the property settlement agreement could have effectuated what the wife was intending to get. Maybe make Mr. Goslee pay alimony in a monthly amount that is half of the disability amount he receives each month. This would of course be taxable to Ms. Goslee but then she is getting alimony pursuant to a property settlement agreement instead of having to fuss over federal laws and pensions and such.
Anyway, just another reminder of how important it is to clarify language in property settlement agreements.