Kesting v. KestingAnnotate this Case
Appellant Linda Kesting obtained a judgment against Respondent James Kesting for breach of an alimony/spousal support agreement entered into during their divorce. When that judgment was returned without recovery, the magistrate judge issued a Judgment of Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”). The subsequent judgment was intended to allow recovery of the unpaid spousal support and associated attorney fees from James’ pension plan. James appealed to the district court, which reversed. The district court concluded that the QDRO was not valid because the spousal support agreement was not merged into the divorce decree and, therefore, the QDRO was not issued pursuant to the State’s domestic relations law as required under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). Linda appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, "disagree[ing] with the district court’s narrow view of domestic relations law. [...] The policies underlying ERISA’s anti-assignment provisions would not be furthered by allowing a person to avoid his or her support obligation because that obligation was agreed to between the parties. [...] Regardless of whether a support obligation was created by court order or provided for by agreement, it was not Congress’s intent that ERISA be used as a tool for a person to evade his or her familial support obligations."