Two Wives Battle over NFL Player’s Pension

November 12, 2010 ( – The widow of a deceased, former NFL player will no longer be receiving his pension because their marriage was never valid.

The Delaware County Times reports that a federal judge has ordered the pension to go to the player’s previous wife, whom the court found ex-Eagles player Thomas Sullivan never divorced, making his later marriage invalid. Lavona Hill is now entitled to receive monthly payments of $2,700 from Sullivan’s pension, and was also awarded nearly $30,000 in benefits that were placed in escrow during the court battle. 

However, U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller didn’t award Hill nearly $200,000 in NFL pension benefits that were already paid to Barbara Sullivan of South Carolina, the news report said.  

Barbara Sullivan’s lawyer argued that she had a “good faith belief” that her marriage was valid, and that Hill had “abandoned” her marriage to Thomas Sullivan for more than five years. But Schiller said that the “good faith belief” is insufficient to validate the marriage.  

“Two people cannot dissolve a marriage by simply being apart for five years and thus forego the formal avenues created by South Carolina law to dissolve a marriage,” Schiller wrote, according to the Times.