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PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER'S RETIREMENT BENEFITS
© 2000 National Legal Research Group, Inc.
MISSOURI: Silcox v. Silcox, 6 S.W.3d 899 (Mo. 1999).
A statute requiring a public school teacher's retirement benefits to be treated as nonmarital property in the marital dissolution proceedings did not conflict with another statute that created the presumption that all property acquired during a marriage be treated as marital property.
MASSACHUSETTS: Kuban v. Kuban, ___ Mass. App. Ct. ___, 721 N.E.2d 393 (1999).
The wife appealed a judgment awarding her 50% of the husband's pension fund as of the date the marriage was dissolved but excluding contributions made by the husband's employer after the date of dissolution.
In Silcox v. Silcox, the couple was married in September 1980. They separated in October 1993, and the wife filed a petition for marital dissolution in November 1993.
During the marriage, the husband owned and operated a KOA Campground. The wife was employed as an elementary school teacher until March 1989, when she retired and began receiving a monthly paycheck from her retirement fund.
The dispute in this case was what was the proper treatment of the public school teacher's retirement benefits received by the wife. The wife contended that the Missouri statutes, specifically Mo. Ann. Stat. 169.572, required that her retirement benefits be treated as nonmarital property. The husband contended that the wife's benefits were marital property.
The court looked to the language of the statute. Section 169.572.2 provides that a Missouri teacher's retirement account must be treated in the same manner as Social Security benefits. The court noted that the Social Security Act provides:
The right of any person in any future payment under this subchapter shall not be transferable or assignable, at law or in equity, and none of the moneys paid or payable or rights existing under this subchapter shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or to the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency laws.6 S.W.3d at 902 (citing 42 U.S.C. 407(a)).
The Missouri Supreme Court noted that the United States Supreme Court has held that this statute acts as a broad bar against the use of any legal process to reach Social Security benefits. Since the Missouri statute requires that a teacher's benefits be treated identically to Social Security benefits, a teacher's retirement fund is not to be considered marital property in a marital dissolution.
The husband then contended that if a retirement fund is not marital property then another section of the Missouri statutes, 452.330.3, is repealed by implication. Section 452.330.3 creates a presumption that all property acquired during a marriage is marital, but this presumption can be overcome by showing that the property was acquired in accordance with one of five exceptions listed. The supreme court noted that this list is not exclusive, however. Thus, 452.330 does not prohibit 169.572 from treating a public school teacher's retirement benefits in the same manner as Social Security benefits. Since there was no conflict, there was no repeal by implication.
In Kuban v. Kuban, the wife appealed a judgment awarding her 50% of the husband's Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association/College Retirement Equities Fund (TIA/CREF) pension fund as of the date the marriage was dissolved but excluding contributions made to the fund by the husband's employer after the date of dissolution. The wife claimed that she was entitled to share in the value of the fund, as augmented by contributions made after the date of the divorce. Her rationale for this was quite creative: These contributions represented "passive" appreciation and occurred while she was engaged in the "joint enterprise" of raising the couple's children.
The argument, while innovative, was not persuasive. The court held that the contributions made by the husband's employer after the date of the divorce were more closely akin to property interests acquired after the dissolution of the marital partnership. These contributions were attributable to the husband alone, through his continued employment, and therefore the wife was not entitled to these contributions.
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