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Minnesota Appeals Court Rules Ex-Spouses Not Entitled to Share of Military Benefits

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that individuals are not entitled to a share of their former spouses’ military disability benefits, even if they agreed to split those benefits in a divorce settlement.

The decision stems from the divorce of Mark Mattson and Diana Berberich, who ended their marriage in 2015. In their settlement, Berberich was set to receive 40 percent of military pension and disability benefits. She was working part time after having spent most their 13 years of marriage as a stay-at-home mother. When Mattson did not make his alimony payments, Berberich sued to enforce the settlement, and the court required him to pay a portion of his military disability benefits.

Appeals court’s ruling

However, the Court of Appeals determined that while military pensions may be treated as community property in divorce settlements, military disability benefits cannot. The U.S. Supreme Court had just weighed in on the matter two days earlier, reversing a lower court ruling, stating that state courts cannot force a veteran to give up his or her disability benefits in a divorce.

Berberich’s argument was that she should be entitled to an equal amount of the disability compensation Mattson was receiving because the money is no longer federally protected once it officially becomes his property. The state court disagreed, despite acknowledging that it can create a “difficult situation” for couples who get divorced in Minnesota.

For more information on this recent ruling and how it could affect your case, meet with a trusted Minnesota divorce lawyer at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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