Family Law Case Review: 20-Year Delay in Presenting QDRO

Case: Katherine Ryan v. Larry Janovsky
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: In a matter of first impression, Wife’s 20-year delay in presenting a QDRO to implement a retirement division, after a 1991 Decree awarded her an interest in Husband’s pension, was not time-barred.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Husband and Wife married in 1974 and divorced in 1991. The parties’ 1991 property settlement agreement awarded Wife a 50% interest, as of December 1, 1991, in Husband’s defined benefit pension.

Over 20 years later, in 2012, Wife’s attorney prepared a QDRO and presented it to Husband to sign. When Husband refused, Wife filed a contempt against Husband. In response, Husband argued there was no legal basis to require him to sign the QDRO.

After a hearing, the trial court concluded that Wife “waited an inordinate amount of time to attempt to perfect her interest” in the pension and, thus, is no longer entitled to any portion thereof. Wife appealed.

The Court of Appeals noted that the timing of when a QDRO must be submitted is a matter of first impression. While not endorsing Wife’s extended delay in prepared the QDRO, the Court of Appeals concluded that Wife’s right to her share of the pension was created by the Decree, not the QDRO. The Court rejected Husband’s argument, which relied upon Ind. Code 34-11-2-12, which provides that “[e]very judgment and decree of any court of record of the United States, of Indiana, or of any other state shall be considered satisfied after the expiration of twenty (20) years.” The Court reasoned that, in this Decree’s allocation of a pension interest, there was no immediately payable judgment in 1991 that could have commenced the statutory period; instead, the 20-year period would begin running not until the pension participant went into pay status, which Husband had not.

The Court also rejected Husband’s other equitable theories, noting that no prejudice was visited upon Husband by Wife’s delay: “The parties will be in the same position if a QDRO is entered tomorrow as they would have been if it had been entered twenty years ago.”

The trial court’s order was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Katherine Ryan v. Larry Janovsky

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The Indiana Family Law Update is a free service provided by the Matrimonial Law Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP. While significant efforts are made to ensure an accurate summary and reproduction of each opinion, readers are advised to verify all content and analysis with a traditional case law reporter before relying on the content and analysis offered here.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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