Court: Ex-Wife Improperly Denied Pension Share

March 25, 2005 ( - A wife who sought a restraining order against her husband - an event that resulted in his being fired as a sheriff's deputy - has been awarded part of his pension benefits in their divorce.

>The Washington State Supreme Court overturned the ruling of a lower court, stating that Cherry Gilbert’s restraining order, despite causing her husband’s firing from the King County (Washington) Sheriff’s Department, should not be held against her in divorce proceedings.  She had accused him of waiving a firearm and threatening to kill her, a charge that he was later cleared of by an internal investigation and a court case.

>In a 6-3 ruling, justices found that Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bruce Cohoe overstepped his bounds when he concluded Gilbert “should have known” getting a protection order against Dawud Muhammad was “going to put him out of a job.”

>In writing for the court, Justice Susan Owen wrote that it must be clear that a spouse cannot be penalized in divorce proceedings for seeking a protection order.

“This finding begs the question, what purpose could the trial court have had for taking notice of Gilbert’s ‘knowledge’ about the effect of the protective order except to … assign fault?” Owens wrote for the majority. “No acceptable answer to this question is apparent.”

>The state’s high court ordered a new divorce trial to divide the couple’s assets, including the $38,400 pension from Gilbert’s former husband. It also ruled that a new judge should get the case.

A copy of the decision is  here .