The Final Judgment distributed the marital portion of the Husband’s pension benefits equally between the parties and noted that the pension benefits would be reduced when the Former Husband began receiving social security benefits. When the Former Wife’s pension benefits were reduced by $445 per month as the result of the Former Husband retiring into the social security system, she filed a Motion to clarify the Judgment and modify the QDRO. Her motion was granted by the Court, and a modified QDRO entered. The trial court noted that the pension plan ratio in the Final Judgment was applied to the pension only and that upon entry into the social security system, the entire social security benefit was being paid to the Former Husband. “The judge explained that it was his intention not to have the former wife’s income reduced.” The trial court believed it could enforce the judgment and that it would not be a modification as the former wife was entitled to a portion of all retirement benefits. The Former Husband appealed both the Order granting the Motion for Clarification and the Second Amended QDRO.
The appellate court found that the Final Judgment was clear as to the Former Wife’s entitlement to and the distribution to her of a percentage of the Former Husband’s pension interests, but not his social security benefits. The Second Amended QDRO was an impermissible modification of equitable distribution as the trial court had not retained jurisdiction to address the issue when the Former Husband began receiving social security benefits.
Richard D. West is a board certified attorney in Marital and Family Law by The Florida Bar and The National Board of Trial Advocacy. A past president, current Fellow and State Governor Representative of the prestigious Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, West is also a partner at the Florida law firm West, Green & Associates, P.L..