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Baldauf v. Baldauf

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

July 10, 2015

Donald P. Baldauf
v.
Julia Helen Baldauf

          Appeal from Coffee Circuit Court. (DR-13-900059).

         PITTMAN, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Thomas, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.

          OPINION

          PITTMAN, Judge.

         Donald P. Baldauf (" the husband" ) appeals from a judgment of the Coffee Circuit

Page 1128

Court that, among other things, dissolved his marriage to Julia Helen Baldauf (" the wife" ), awarded the wife monthly periodic alimony in the amount of $275, allocated 33% of the husband's military-retirement benefits to the wife, and awarded the wife one of two parcels of real property and one of two mobile homes owned by the parties during their marriage. We reverse and remand.

         The record reflects that the husband joined the United States Air Force in 1980; that the parties were married on June 2, 1988, after the husband had served as an Air Force staff sergeant for 8 years; that the husband left the Air Force on November 1, 2000 (12 years and 5 months later); that the husband receives $1,813 in gross military-retirement pay each month as his sole income; and that the parties separated in February 2013. Pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 8914, a member of the Air Force is entitled to request retirement when he or she has " at least 20 ... years of service" completed; thus, because the husband is receiving retirement pay, it can be inferred that he entered the service between January 1980 and June 1980, and that the husband had been in the Air Force between 8 and 8.4 years at the time the parties married.

         At trial, the wife testified that she believed she was entitled to " half" of the husband's military-retirement benefits; counsel for the husband objected at that time that such an award would be outside the trial court's authority. After the trial court had entered its judgment awarding the wife 33% of the husband's retirement benefits and $275 in monthly periodic alimony, the husband, through new counsel, filed a postjudgment motion asserting that the alimony and property division were in violation of Ala. Code 1975, § 30-2-51(b)(3); however, the trial court allowed the postjudgment motion to be denied pursuant to Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P., rather than affording relief to the husband.

         On appeal, the husband again contends that the trial court's judgment is in violation of Ala. Code 1975, § 30-2-51(b)(3), both as to the property division and the award of periodic alimony (which, he says, constitutes an indirect allocation of additional funds from his military-retirement benefits). The wife, although acknowledging the binding effect of the statute, posits that the award of retirement benefits to her is proper because it amounts to only 33% of the husband's aggregate benefit and that the $275 monthly periodic-alimony award is justified because of her lack of employment or retirement income of her own.

         Alabama Code 1975, § 30-2-51(b), provides as follows:

" The judge, at his or her discretion, may include in the estate of either spouse the present value of any future or current retirement benefits, that a spouse may have a vested interest in or may be receiving on the date the action for divorce is filed, provided that the following conditions are met:
" (1) The parties have been married for a period of 10 years during which the retirement was being accumulated.
" (2) The court shall not include in the estate the value of any retirement benefits acquired prior to the marriage including any interest or appreciation of the benefits.
" (3) The total amount of the retirement benefits payable to the non-covered spouse shall not exceed 50 percent of the retirement benefits that may be ...

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