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Lockler v. Lockler

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 11, 2017

WILLIAM AUGUST LOCKLER, III
v.
PAMELA MICHELLE BARR LOCKLER

          Assigned on Briefs May 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Washington County No. 24931 J. Eddie Lauderback, Judge

         This case involves the interpretation of a divorce judgment. William August Lockler, III, and Pamela Michelle Barr Lockler were married on January 3, 2002, and divorced on September 6, 2007. In its judgment, the original trial judge, the Honorable Jean A. Stanley, ordered that "If [wife] is entitled under federal law to receive any portion of [husband's] military retirement benefits[, ] then she is awarded one-half (1/2) of those benefits earned during the parties' marriage." After husband retired from military service in December 2014, wife filed a petition on February 20, 2015 to reopen the divorce judgment. She sought one-half of husband's military retirement that had accrued during their marriage. The trial court granted wife's petition, holding that Judge Stanley awarded wife a portion of husband's military retirement benefits. Husband appeals, arguing that wife is not entitled to a portion of his benefits because she is only eligible to receive the benefits under federal law and does not have a right to them. We hold that the trial court correctly concluded that the original trial judge intended to award wife one-half of husband's military retirement that accrued during their marriage. Accordingly, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Thomas F. Bloom, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William August Lockler, III.

          Patrick B. Slaughter, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Pamela Michelle Barr Lockler.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which W. Neal McBrayer and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         The parties separated in October 2005. Husband later filed a complaint for divorce. Wife answered and filed a counterclaim. Wife later filed a Rule 9[1] suggestion of equitable settlement, requesting one-half of husband's military retirement that had accrued during their marriage. Husband filed his own Rule 9 suggestion, asserting that he and wife had not been married long enough for wife to receive a portion of his military retirement and that he should be able to retain his retirement pay free and clear of any claim by her.

         Following a hearing on September 6, 2007, Judge Stanley entered a judgment on October 15, 2007. She granted the parties a divorce and addressed issues pertaining to the parties' child, alimony, attorney's fees, and a division of the parties' property. As pertinent to the issue on appeal, the judgment provides as follows:

If [wife] is entitled under federal law to receive any portion of [husband's] military retirement benefits[, ] then she is awarded one-half (1/2) of those benefits earned during the parties' marriage.

         Husband retired from the Army in December 2014 after twenty-two years and seven months of service. Wife then filed a petition on February 20, 2015 to reopen the original judgment, seeking one-half of husband's military retirement pay that accrued during their marriage. Husband then answered, asserting that wife was not entitled to any of his military retirement under federal law. In a memorandum supporting her claim, wife argued that the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. § 1408 (USFSPA) allowed the division of military retirement pay as marital property and that Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-121 and case law allowed Judge Stanley to divide husband's military retirement pay as a part of an equitable settlement of marital property. Husband responded with his own memorandum, asserting, among other things, that wife was allowed, but not entitled, to receive a portion of his military retirement pay under federal law.

         Judge J. Eddie Lauderback[2] heard wife's petition and entered an order granting wife's petition. Judge ...


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