Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Employment Benefits—Divorce—Validity—Right to Share of Pension

From Bloomberg Family Law Reporter:

The first wife of a retired union worker has failed to convince the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland that their divorce was invalid—after it was allegedly declared so on the TV show “The People's Court”—and that she was therefore entitled to a portion of her ex-husband's pension benefits. The couple were married in Chile in 1975, and they divorced in Mexico in 1983. He married his second wife in 1983 in Los Angeles, and that marriage ended in 2006. The man retired in 2010, receiving both lump-sum and monthly pension benefits from his union pension fund. His second wife also received lump-sum and monthly benefits pursuant to a qualified domestic relations order.
In 2011, the first wife contacted the fund, claiming that her Mexican divorce was “illegal” and that she was still the man's legal wife and therefore entitled to benefits. She asserted that she showed their divorce papers to Judge Joseph Wapner of the TV show “The People's Court,” and that he “concluded that the divorce was not legal.” The fund then filed a declaratory action asking the court to weigh in on the dispute, and the man filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration that his first wife had no valid claim to benefits. The court granted the motion, noting that the purported divorce occurred almost 30 years ago, with the man spending 23 of them years married to someone else and raising three children with her. “After thirty years of silence, to permit [the first wife] to now raise an issue challenging the validity of that second marriage would be plainly inequitable,” the court said. (Bd. of Trs. of the Masters, Mates & Pilots Pension Plan v. Carney, D. Md., No. 1:13-cv-01005-WMN, 12/3/13)

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