In re Marriage of CassinelliAnnotate this Case
Robert and Janice married in 1964; in 1986, they divorced. In the meantime, after 20 years of service, Robert had retired from the United States Air Force. In a stipulated judgment, the trial court awarded Janice her community property interest in Robert’s military retired pay. In 2012, it was determined that Robert had a combat-related disability. As a result, he became eligible to receive both veteran’s disability benefits and combat-related special compensation (CRSC); to do so, however, he had to waive his retired pay. Before the waiver, Robert received $791 a month and Janice received $541 in retired pay (taxable). After the waiver, Robert received $1,743 a month in veteran’s disability benefits and $1,389 a month in CRSC, for a total of $3,132 (tax-free); Janice received nothing. The trial court ordered Robert to start paying Janice $541 a month in permanent and nonmodifiable spousal support. Robert appealed, contending: (1) under federal law, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to make any award to Janice based on Robert’s receipt of either veteran’s disability benefits or CRSC; (2) the trial court erred by using spousal support as a remedy for the loss of a community property interest; (3) the trial court erred by making its award of spousal support nonmodifiable; (4) because the judgment dividing the community property was long-since final, the trial court could not give Janice any remedy for the loss of her community property interest in the retired pay; (5) all of Robert's income was exempt, therefore could not be required to satisfy Janice's claim; and (6) Janice was not entitled to spousal support, and the trial court abused its discretion by finding otherwise. The Court of Appeal agreed federal law prohibited the trial court from compensating Janice, in the form of spousal support or otherwise, for the loss of her share of Robert’s retired pay. However, it could properly modify spousal support, provided it did so based on the relevant factors and not as compensation. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with directions to hold a new trial on Janice’s request for a modification of spousal support.