Berberich v Mattson

Yesterday, the Minnesota appellate court reversed its longstanding position on veterans benefits and will no longer award ex-spouses a portion of disability compensation.

Attorney Francis White argued the pro-veteran position supporting the Congressional mandate that veterans’ disability compensation payments are not marital property. The case, Berberich v Mattson, overruled previous case law that erroneously affirmed that veterans disability compensation monies could be awarded to an ex-spouse in a divorce.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued its decision in Berberich v. Mattson, 2017 Minn. App. LEXIS 122, which restored to a retired Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) the full measure of the Disability Compensation.

It is important to note the win was not merely another victory for Attorney White, “As a disabled veteran and Air Force retiree, this serves as vindication for all veterans who were penalized by state courts.” He continued, “Those courts refused to follow the clear mandate from Congress to not award a veterans disability compensation to an ex-spouse.”

Following the win, attorney White published the Facebook group Gatfield v Gatfield Victims to help veterans affected by the unenforceable agreements get the relief they deserve.

Veterans with children can still have their benefits apportioned for child support. However, in instances where the divorcing couple has no minor-aged children, the benefits will generally not be apporitioned solely for the purpose of alimony.

Berberich v Mattson Disability Benefits Decision

Yesterday, the Minnesota State Court of Appeals undid a massive injustice that had been imposed upon Minnesota’s Disabled Veterans in 2004. This reversal is based on a recent Supreme Court decision on point in Howell v Howell that essentially reversed Minnesota’s Gatfield v Gatfield.

I will explain this below, as briefly and simply as possible for my readers who hate reading legalese.

Howell

In May of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Howell, 137 S. Ct. 1400, decided that divorce decrees awarding rights to disability compensation for ex-spouses were unenforceable because they were violations of Federal Law, related to Veteran’s benefits.

Gatfield

In 2004, fifteen years earlier, following the lead of many of her sister State’s courts, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in Gatfield v. Gatfield, 682 N.W.2d 632, decided it could partition disability compensation benefits despite a Congressional prohibition.

According to Gatfield, a veteran could voluntarily allocate his or her disability benefits to an ex-spouse vis-a-vis required alimony payments. If the veteran failed to pay, a court could step in to force payment through a subsequent court order.

Minnesota’s courts, as well as most courts throughout the country, had rigorously enforced these agreements, even though the judge was unable to impose that outcome his or herself.

Now, under the reversal in Berberich, a Minnesota court cannot award monies in this context. The reason is that a veteran lacks the authority to overrule Congress, even if the agreement is a voluntary contractual obligation in a divorce proceeding.

This is based on Howell’s basic acknowledgment of the lack of a state court’s authority to “’vest’ that which they lack the authority to give.”

Example Of Inappropriate Allocation

For some background, military retirees have indemnification clauses in their divorce decrees where the veteran promises to compensate the ex-spouse should their retirement pay be reduced by an offset resulting from a disability compensation award. Generally, the offset would be an equal portion of the disability pay.

This practice is no longer allowed, and it is probable that veterans previously bound by such agreements can have their decree reconsidered by a court in that limited context.

Amicus And Next Steps

I participated in the appeal as Amicus with Michigan Attorney Carson Tucker and am obviously pleased with the outcome. Attorney Tucker focuses on federal appellate matters including informing courts of the nuances related to veterans benefits. Attorney Brian Lewis served as co-counsel for Attorney White.

Believe it or not, most attorneys and judges are unfamiliar with veterans benefits and related administrative laws regulating how the benefits are administered. It is a mess, and veterans impacted by decades of bad decisions concerning benefits need to push back.

If you are a disabled veteran, subject to a Minnesota divorce decree, it might be a good idea to contact your attorney and ask him or her if you were a victim of Gatfield, and what can be done about it.

Check out the new Gatfield v Gatfield Victims group on Facebook.

Attorney White can be reached by email at francis.white (at) franciswhitelaw.com.

Source: Minnesota Decision In BerBerich v Mattson

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37 Comments on "Minnesota Reverses, Will No Longer Award Disability Benefits To Ex-Spouses"

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namnibor
namnibor

Good job! ANY win for Veterans is one less Right loss and regained. Now perhaps Attorney White can investigate the VA’s illegal “Appointed Fiduciary Program”….for entire US of A, not just Minnesota.

Dennis
Dennis
If you are offended by sexist poitically irreverent first ammendment speech, please stop reading here…. We live in a culture now of young women no longer willing to put off morbid obesity until after marriage and who have now come to expect child support payments (here in Oregon) until the kid reaches 21. Yep, we have to pay until they can legally enter a bar now and that cash gets sent to mommy, the blob on the couch watching Oprah… Read more »
91Veteran
91Veteran

I can just imagine the little college campus social justice femi-nazi’s hyperventilating while planning an assault on Ben if they were aware of his role in this.

Faycal Ferhat
Faycal Ferhat

Dear Attorney White :

I love you men !

Faycal./

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
@Faycal Ferhat – – – These GREAT men may have powerful and fantastic women that support them in the background during their lives. Got to love our GREAT giving women too. Shootz bruddah, my wife puts up with this challenged Veteran, and I definitely know that this benefits me GREAT-ly. Although, I do know what you’re saying per your post. Question, with no offense; Where are you from? I’ve NEVER heard of your first name. Hey look, I’m not fooled,… Read more »
Faycal Ferhat
Faycal Ferhat

No worries.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet

More curious than worrying. Thanks. – – – Nutter.

Mike
Mike

A lot of pissed women. Doesn’t mean much. They can still order payment, just can’t garnish benefits, just go to jail instead

91Veteran
91Veteran

Mike, your comment brings up another question:

If the woman was awarded $1000 month in the divorce because the disability benefit paid to the man allowed that much, but the man actually only made enough working to pay $500 a month, are you saying he would go to jail now that the other $500 was cut off?

Are you saying the woman would continue to have ordered $1000 from the man without regard to where it was coming from?

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
@91Veteran – – – 91, in your scenario, they would accrue back awarded support payments. Even though someone can’t pay the full amount, the balance is still owed. The amount of support that is set in the Court is still ordered. The payment amount has to be changed in the original support order to reflect any changes. And, in my lovely ex-State, I’ve heard of some Judges ordering support payments based on one’s potential, and not based on one’s income.… Read more »
91Veteran
91Veteran

Thanks for the response ANutterVet.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet

Your welcome my Brother. – – – Nutter.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
@Benjamin Krause – – – What do you think of an app that can measure the vote of a post, by being more specific than using a format of positive or negative voting? Instead of a plus or minus vote, what about using a scale of how some agrees with the post? Say from 1-5, or like our lovely, caring, corruptible, and unaccountable VA scales our pain, 1-10? I’ve found that their have been many statements where I only partially… Read more »
ANutterVet
ANutterVet

Boo, negative responses. Don’t worry, I’ve been through worse. The current app is too broad IMO to file a complaint on. Too broad. Again, BOOOOO. – – – Nutter.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet

Sorry, should be the negative or positive counter that is too broad.

namnibor
namnibor

Off-Topic: We know of one Veteran’s life’s loss in the Las Vegas massacre; “[Chris Roybal, 28, of Southern California, was a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, ABC News said. Roybal was shot in the chest, ABC said.]”

91Veteran
91Veteran

Congratulations on this success Ben.

Can you comment more on this? Was this a state by state issue? I ask because I had always understood veterans disability was off-limits in a divorce case.

Put another way, is this an issue in some states where they ignored (or didn’t know) the law?

Fuddrucker
Fuddrucker

I had heard a judge couldn’t tell disabled veteran they had to give up their disability compensation but the judge could order them to pay a certain amount of money and the judge didn’t care where they got it which is a loophole around this.

91Veteran
91Veteran

I can believe this. I assumed in divorce court, anything ordered to be paid would be made based on the ability to pay…meaning, how much income from working. I suppose if a judge just decides to look at totals in a bank account…

91Veteran
91Veteran

In some respects Ben, I’m a little shocked this ruling was even still followed.

Could you imagine the outrage if the husband of a disabled veteran took part of HER disability as alimony?

I wonder now if there ever has been such a case.

namnibor
namnibor

Even some of the woman FemiNazi’s are sporting braided underarm hair these days, anything could happen, esp. in Pacific Northwest (no offense Dennis) 🙂

namnibor
namnibor

Braided with beads. It’s an important distinction.

91Veteran
91Veteran

I saw one who colored her under arm hair. Rainbow colors of course.

namnibor
namnibor

Held together with a strand or two of razor wire or Constantine Wire? 🙂

Leatherneck
Leatherneck

Are you still displease with me?

namnibor
namnibor

I was never one way or the otherwise with you, Leatherneck. You probably have me confused with someone else. See, I have always been considered an asshole to one person or group all my life, so I consider myself asshole neutral these days. 🙂

Dennis
Dennis

@namnibor
I don’t mind at all dude but your information is pretty dated. Braided armpit hair on the chicks here went out with the unibrow look. Armpit hair is now properly worn by the chick as dreadlocks. It takes less time to get ready in the morning and is a much less technical achievement – a bonus these days for those educated in public schools.

namnibor
namnibor

Always handy to have a dreadlock jump rope around for kiddies that get bored and need some playground games. The beads would add some weight but could put an eye out.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
@Benjamin Krause – – – No offense, but I’m not too hip on the flagging of posts. I think we’re all adults by believing that issues can work out amongst the authors. At first, I was under the impression that your site was not going to be monitored. I guess things change. I’m just not sold on the whole concept. When reviewing the reasons for flagging, I see a big potential of psychology, emotions, beliefs, and other things that can… Read more »
91Veteran
91Veteran

ANutterVet, did I miss something? If comments are being flagged for some reason, it would be nice to know what they are.

If cussing is one of them, I would have to be more careful and eloquent when referring to rodents of unknown parentage.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
@91Veteran – – – 91, put you cursor on the shaded flay on the top right of the lighter shaded comment box. Look at your above post, see the word “SOME” on the first line of your post? Scroll your cursor over the shaded flag, a black shaded dialog type of box pops up. When the Black Dialog is up, tap it once. An Interactive type Dialog Box appears. Here you see where one files complaints about the content in… Read more »
ANutterVet
ANutterVet

flay should be “flag”

91Veteran
91Veteran

Thanks ANutterVet. I suppose if someone wants to flag and report my comment, that is up to them. I would assume Ben can just as easily reject whoever is complaining about a comment, or block them outright if they start flagging and reporting all comments.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
@91Veteran – – – I’m trying to feel accepting per the “flagging” of comments. Like you said 91, it will be up to the other party whether they want to file a complaint by “flagging” a comment. As a matter of fact, I’m filing a damn complaint due to your hippish attitude. We’ll see how er goes. LOL Many are complaining that policies as a whole, lean forward to Conservatism. Yes that’s right, the far left are building “Hillary’s Army.”… Read more »
ANutterVet
ANutterVet

Its easier for BIG Business to sue the US Gubmint for the lost of sales under NAFTA, than it is for a Veteran to sue for Medical Malpractice, or for compensational claims. There needs to be more knowledgeable attorneys that serve Veterans with VA disputes and issues. Again, just saying. – – – Nutter.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
My second cousin stopped by tonight for a visit that was long over due. He wanted to show me his 9 mm that he purchased on sale from a large Sport and Gun Supply Store. Anyway, bottom line from his visit, I encouraged him to purchase more guns, due to the US Political and Domestic Movements. And, he agreed. Good, mission accomplished. Arming citizens to help protect our Citizenship when it may be required. Having the back-up to protect our… Read more »
james gallegos

wow finely someone fought and won. Hopefully these veterans who are having to pay, will some how get the message that they can fight this in court.

now we need someone to fight to stop the VA from denying disability claims that should have been awarded.

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