Court affirms that ex-wife entitled to her percentage share of disability benefits
In re Marriage of Schurtz, No. 3-07-0345; 2008
WL 2265286 (3d D 2008)
On May 28, 2008, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, affirmed the judgment of the Circuit Court of Peoria County denying petitioner's request for attorney fees and granting petitioner's rule to show cause and to enforce judgment.
The petitioner and respondent entered into a marital settlement agreement in 1993 requiring the respondent to divide his retirement benefits with the petitioner. In 2004, the respondent stopped working and began receiving disability benefits. At that time, the respondent refused to divide his benefits with the petitioner. The petitioner subsequently filed a petition for rule to show cause and to enforce the judgment. The trial court granted the petition, holding that the respondent's disability pension was a retirement pension for the purposes of the settlement agreement. Afterward, the petitioner filed a petition for attorney fees. The court denied this request, finding that the respondent had a good faith justification for not paying prior to a court order. The respondent appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in ordering him to pay benefits to the petitioner. The petitioner cross appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying her request for attorney fees and prejudgment interest.
When a pension plan provides disability benefits and retirement benefits but the marital settlement agreement refers only to division of retirement benefits and not to disability payments, courts have two options to reasonably interpret the agreement: "(1) as a grant to the ex-spouse of a portion of any benefits received under the pension plan, or (2) as limiting the ex-spouse's interest in the pension plan to normal, age-related retirement benefits." Each case rests upon its own facts and circumstances. However, where "a disabled ex-husband is not yet eligible for retirement pay, a marital settlement agreement entitling the ex-wife to 'retirement' benefits should not be interpreted to...