Texas family courts often award one party to a divorce a share of the other party’s retirement income or pension that accrued during the marriage. This method of property division ensures that a nonworking or lower-earning spouse is compensated for their efforts in the marriage when acting as a stay-at-home spouse or parent. Generally, the obligee spouse is only awarded retirement income that was accrued during a marriage, however, Texas courts can and do award proceeds from retirement or pension accounts that were earned by the other spouse after a divorce.
The Texas Third Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower court ruling that had reduced an ex-husband’s obligation to pay his wife a share of his military pension that he accrued during 19 years of military service after the parties’ divorce was finalized. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the parties were married in 1977, and a divorce trial was held in 1996. As part of the final divorce order, the wife was awarded 50% of the husband’s military pension once it was received. Because the husband continued to serve in the military after the divorce was finalized, he did not receive any pension until after his retirement in 2015. After the husband’s retirement, the wife demanded that he pay her 50% of the pension payments pursuant to the 1996 divorce decree.
The husband refused to pay 50% of his total pension award, claiming that he only owed her 50% of the pension amount that accrued during the marriage. The husband made a motion with the court that entered the divorce decree, seeking a clarifying order that the wife was not entitled to 50% of the total pension amount. The trial court accepted the husband’s arguments, ultimately awarding over $115,000 in disputed funds to the husband. The wife appealed the ruling to the Texas Court of Appeals, arguing that the decree of divorce clearly stated that she was entitled to 50% of the pension once it was received, and this order did not limit the award to funds accrued only during the marriage.