RI Court Rules Husband Must Pay Ex-Wife Pension Benefits While Still Working

November 24, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Rhode Island Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court ruling by ordering a husband to pay his ex-wife retirement benefits even though he has not yet retired.

>In a 1994 property settlement agreement – which was incorporated but not merged into a final divorce decree – Paul Andrukiewicz agreed to pay his ex-wife Georgia $583 every month after his “normal retirement date.” The date was March 1, 1996, which for the husband’s plan was after 20 years of service. Mr. Andrukiewicz, however, elected to continue working after his retirement date, and did not pay his ex-wife the benefits.

>Because the agreement was not merged into the decree of divorce, it retained the characteristics of a contract, according to the ruling.¬†Writing the opinion for the court, Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg stated that the language was “clear and unambiguous” regarding the normal retirement date. While the husband asserted that “normal” meant when he chose to retire, the state Supreme Court confirmed the lower court’s ruling that “normal” could only mean when most people in the plan retired, which was after 20 years of service.

>The lower court had awarded the plan participant’s ex-wife $56,877 in arrears and interest, and ordered the husband to commence payment of the monthly benefits to his wife. The Supreme Court upheld this decision.

>The case, Andrukiewicz v. Andrukiewicz, RI, No. 2002-395, is available at http://www.courts.state.ri.us/supreme/pdf-files/02-395.pdf .