The United States Supreme Court overturned a uniamous decision by the Arizona Supreme Court inHowell v. Howell, a case involving the intersection of family law with military disability pensions. Arizona attorney Keith Berkshire represented John Howell in the Arizona courts and was one of two attorneys who represented Mr. Howell in the United States Supreme Court. He will discuss the case and its path to the highest court in the land.
Background of the case: The divorce decree of petitioner John Howell and respondent Sandra Howell awarded Sandra 50% of John’s future Air Force retirement pay, which she began to receive when John retired the following year. About 13 years later, the Department of Veterans Affairs found that John was partially disabled due to an earlier service-related injury. To receive disability pay, federal law required John to give up an equivalent amount of retirement pay. By his election, John waived about $250 of his retirement pay, which also reduced the value of Sandra’s 50% share. Sandra petitioned the Arizona family court to enforce the original divorce decree and restore the value of her share of John’s total retirement pay. The trial court held that the original divorce decree had given Sandra a vested interest in the prewaiver amount of John’s retirement pay and ordered John to ensure that she receive her full 50% without regard for the disability waiver. The Arizona Supreme Court agreed with the trial court, and held that federal law did not pre-empt the family court’s order.
Keith Berkshire is a certified specialist in Family Law and a fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers at the Berkshire Law Office. Keith practices in all areas of family law, including complex litigation. Keith has a significant appellate practice including a multitude of published decisions at the Arizona Court of Appeals and Arizona Supreme Court. Keith also recently won the case Howell v. Howell, 137 S. Ct. 1400 (2017) at the Supreme Court of the United States. He is a member of the Task Force on the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, which will restyle and rewrite the Family Law Rules. Keith has served on the Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee of the State Bar of Arizona, as well as the Civil Rules Committee. Keith was also a member of the Court Procedures Workgroup for the Domestic Relations Committee of the State Legislature as part of the 2013 changes to the custody statutes, and has authored numerous other family law rules and statutes.
*The State Bar of Arizona does not approve or accredit CLE activities for the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirement. This activity may qualify for up to 1.0 hours toward your annual CLE requirement for the State Bar of Arizona, including 0 hour(s) of professional responsibility.
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