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Allen v. Allen

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

May 17, 2017

Claire L. Allen, Appellant
v.
Lawrence Allen, Appellee

         FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY, 425TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT NO. 2014-0804-f425, HONORABLE BETSY F. LAMBETH, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Chief Justice Rose, Justices Goodwin and Bourland.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Melissa Goodwin, Justice

         Claire Allen appeals from the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Lawrence Allen in Claire's suit to enforce a Washington State divorce decree.[1] The parties filed competing motions for summary judgment, and the trial court granted Lawrence's motion and denied Claire's motion. For the reasons that follow, we reverse in part and affirm in part the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         Claire and Lawrence were divorced in 1984 in the state of Washington. At the time of the divorce, Lawrence was receiving military retirement benefits in the amount of $1, 240 per month. The divorce decree included the following disputed provisions:

5.By way of child support and spousal maintenance Lawrence H. Allen shall pay through the registery [sic] of the Superior Court for Whatcom County for the benefit of Claire L. Allen on the first day of each calendar month an amount equal to his U.S. Army retirement pay (presently $1, 240 per month, subject to periodic cost of living increases). Of such amount one-third of the total payment shall be deemed spousal maintenance and such payment shall continue so long as both parties survive; two-thirds of such monthly payment shall be deemed child support for the parties (sic) three minor children. . . .
6.Respondent shall procure and continuously maintain life insurance on himself payable to [Claire] and the parties [sic] three minor children as irrevocable beneficiaries in an amount sufficient to fund an annuity equal in value to Respondent's U.S. Army Retirement Pension.

         Lawrence began making monthly spousal maintenance payments through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in the amount of $413.13. According to Claire, as a result of cost of living increases over the years, the amount of the payments increased to $979.05 by July 2013. In 2011, Lawrence was determined to be 100% disabled and entitled to receive disability-related compensation under Title 38 (VA disability payments). See generally 38 U.S.C. §§ 1101-1163. In order to receive VA disability payments, a retiree must waive a portion of his retirement pay equal to the amount of VA benefits he is to receive. See id. §§ 5304 (Prohibition against duplication of benefits), 5305 (Waiver of retired pay). In June 2013, Lawrence was also found to be entitled to Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) under Title 10. See 10 U.S.C. § 1413a. CRSC is paid under a separate program created to provide monthly benefits to retirees with combat-related disabilities to replace the amount of retirement pay the retiree waived to receive VA benefits. See id. § 1413a(b)(1) (Determination of monthly amount), (2) (Maximum amount). Payments of CRSC "are not retired pay." Id. § 1413a(g).

         After being determined eligible for CRSC in June 2013, Lawrence waived his retirement benefits for VA benefits and elected to receive CRSC, reducing the amount of his "retirement pay, " and in turn reducing the amount of spousal maintenance he paid to Claire beginning in September 2013. In his motion for summary judgment, Lawrence alleged that after his waiver of retirement pay in lieu of VA and CRSC benefits, his monthly retirement pay was reduced to approximately $56 and that Claire continued to receive one-third of that amount as monthly spousal maintenance. In her motion for summary judgment, Claire alleged that the amount of the monthly spousal maintenance payments was reduced to $51.33 by Lawrence's waiver of retirement pay and that payments stopped in December 2013; on appeal she states that the amount was reduced to $18.08 per month.

         In March 2014, Claire filed a motion to enforce the Washington divorce decree in the trial court. At a hearing in April 2015, the trial court heard argument of counsel and instructed the parties to file competing motions for summary judgment. Acting first, Lawrence filed a traditional motion for summary judgment and attached as exhibits the Washington divorce decree, Claire's amended petition, his amended answer, a letter approving his claim for CRSC, a CRSC pay statement, a CRSC benefits fact sheet, and relevant statutes and case law. Claire then filed a traditional motion for summary judgment.[3] Although Claire's motion referred to "evidence included in the appendix to [her] motion, " the appellate record contains no such appendix or evidence. After a hearing on the motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted Lawrence's motion and denied Claire's motion. This appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         In three issues, Claire challenges the trial court's ruling on the competing motions for summary judgment. We review a trial court's decision to grant summary judgment de novo. Katy Venture, Ltd. v. Cremona Bistro Corp., 469 S.W.3d 160, 163 (Tex. 2015) (per curiam). To prevail on a traditional summary judgment motion, the movant must demonstrate that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); Katy Venture, 469 S.W.3d at 163. When both parties move for summary judgment, each party bears the burden of establishing that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Moayedi v. Interstate 35/Chisam Rd., L.P., 438 S.W.3d 1, 3-4 (Tex. 2014); Abbott v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 410 S.W.3d 876, 879 (Tex. App.-Austin 2013, no pet.). When both parties move for summary judgment on the same issues and the trial court grants one motion and denies the other, we consider the summary judgment evidence presented by both sides, determine all questions presented, and if we determine that the trial court erred, render the judgment the trial court should have rendered. Gilbert Tex. Constr., L.P. v. Underwriters at Lloyd's London, 327 ...


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