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Baltimore County Family Law Attorney Blog

Baltimore & Towson Lawyer Discusses Appellate Review Of Pension Benefits

Written by Amar Weisman » June 19, 2015 »

A Maryland court has decided to review a wife’s request for certain pension benefits sought as part of her divorce settlement. Generally speaking, when couples file for divorce, they have a chance to draft a settlement agreement that discusses (and resolves) various issues arising from the marriage.

More specifically, couples, by way of a settlement agreement, can divide marital property in a way that suits both parties, as opposed to a judge dividing the property for them. Once the divorce is finalized, the agreement may be made part of the record and the judgment itself will contain the terms of the agreement.

Maryland law allows for spouses to allocate and identify pension benefits as part of their settlement agreement. As your Towson divorce lawyer will tell you, this aspect of the divorce is governed by statute and case law.

Many people do not fully understand how the law can be applied to their particular circumstances, so it is important to work with a skilled attorney who can advise you appropriately.

Pension Benefits Under Review

A recent case, Pulliam v. Pulliam, involved a divorcing couple’s dispute over whether or not their consent judgment and settlement agreement included a voluntary Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). The couple was married in 2005 and filed for divorce in 2010. An uncontested divorce proceeding was held in 2012, during which time the couple placed their settlement agreement on the record.

The agreement mentioned the husband’s membership in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System (LEOPS), and under the terms of the agreement, the wife was to receive half of the marital share of the husband’s full pension benefits. An absolute divorce was granted in 2012 and the agreement was included as part of the order.

Ultimately, the wife sought to obtain an Eligible Domestics Relations Order (EDRO) from the court because the husband would not sign the order. The wife wanted to include the DROP benefits as part of the husband’s pension; however, the husband opposed the motion, noting that at the time of divorce, he wasn’t eligible to participate in the DROP program. The trial court found that the DROP benefits were part of the retirement assets within the meaning of the EDRO. The husband disagreed and appealed.

On review, the Maryland court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision after reviewing two primary issues: Whether the parties’ consent judgment contemplated the DROP benefits and whether those benefits were included in the LEOPS plan under the law. The court found that the portion of the consent judgment that concerned that particular issue was clear -- the term “pension” includes whatever benefits are included in that pension under the law. Simply stated, what that means is that the DROP benefits were part of the LEOPS pension for purposes of the EDRO and therefore subject to division as noted in the consent judgment.

What Does This Case Mean for You?

The case demonstrates how important it is for individuals to gain some knowledge and understanding with respect to the numerous laws that may apply to a divorce case and how they may affect the outcome of your case. If you are going through a divorce and have questions about your case, contact the Law Offices of Amar Weisman, LLC as soon as possible.

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Call The Law Offices of Amar S. Weisman at (410) 321-4994 to schedule a Free ConsultationThe Purpose of the consultation is to determine whether you want to retain this law firm as your Baltimore County & Harford County Family Lawyer. If you do wish to proceed, then you must pay a retainer. See Our Policy on Fees and Costs. The family firm is located next to The Circuit Court for Baltimore County, at 1018 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, MD 21204.