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May 20, 2017

Supreme Court Makes Family Law Ruling in Howell vs. Howell Case

May 20, 2017 - Family Law by |

On May 15, the Supreme Court made a ruling in the Howell vs. Howell case. As reported by, it was a unanimous ruling for reversal, as the Justices weighed in on the matters of a veteran’s retirement benefits in divorce. It was also one of many recent rulings showcasing the Supreme Court back at its full strength of nine sitting Justices.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was officially confirmed in April after his nomination by President Donald Trump in January. He fills the spot of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, bringing the Supreme Court back to its full count of nine Justices. While matters related to the election, immigration, and healthcare dominate the headlines, family law has already been and will continue to be impacted as well.

We’ve discussed government employee retirement accounts in divorce before but in Howell vs. Howell, the case hinged instead on a veteran’s retirement benefits. The case stretched back a quarter of a century, with veteran John Howell ordered to share half of his retirement pay with ex-wife Sandra Howell. However, John eventually opted to receive disability benefits in lieu of a portion of that retirement pay. The outcome of the ruling is that John is not required to reimburse Sandra for the portion of retirement pay she no longer receives.

Even though Justice Gorsuch did not participate in this ruling as he joined the court after the case was initially argued, it still showed that the Supreme Court and its current Justices will be handling important family law cases. It also showed the potential for unanimous rulings and agreement as opposed to what is often a five to four ideological split.

Certainly, this isn’t the last we’ve heard from the current court in areas related to family law. Be sure to keep your eye on the latest news, and if you have any questions about your own situation or pending case, call the Law Offices of Brandon Bernstein at 240.395.1418 today.