Christmas v. Christmas, No. 72163

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Writing for the CourtHODGES; HARGRAVE; ALMA WILSON; I have been authorized to state that LAVENDER, J. and KAUGER
Citation787 P.2d 1267,1990 OK 16
Parties, 1990 OK 16 S.M. CHRISTMAS, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. B.G. CHRISTMAS, Defendant-Petitioner.
Docket NumberNo. 72163
Decision Date27 February 1990

Page 1267

787 P.2d 1267
58 USLW 2539, 1990 OK 16
S.M. CHRISTMAS, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
B.G. CHRISTMAS, Defendant-Petitioner.
No. 72163.
Supreme Court of Oklahoma.
Feb. 27, 1990.

Certiorari to Review Certified Interlocutory Order, District Court of Tulsa County; Sharron Bubenik, Judge.

Petitioner, defendant in divorce action, seeks review of certified interlocutory order in which trial court held disability benefits received after divorce were jointly-acquired property.

CERTIORARI PREVIOUSLY GRANTED; ORDER DIVIDING DISABILITY BENEFITS REVERSED; CAUSE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.

James Francis Gillet, Tulsa, for plaintiff-respondent.

Hood, Thornbrugh & Raynolds by P. Thomas Thornbrugh, Tulsa, for defendant-petitioner.

Robert H. Henry, Atty. Gen. by Hugh H. Collum, Asst. Atty. Gen., Oklahoma City, amicus curiae.

HODGES, Justice.

This appeal from a certified interlocutory order raises the following question of first impression: Are disability benefits received after divorce joint property subject to equitable division in a divorce action? We answer in the negative.

Bill Christmas (husband) and Suzy Christmas (wife) were married in 1974. On December 7, 1987, wife filed her petition for divorce and the parties separated.

Two weeks later, husband began an approximately three-month stay in a local sanatorium. He sought disability benefits for job stress incurred as Chief of the Sapulpa Fire Department. Pursuant to title 11, section 49-109, the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement Board awarded disability in the line of duty benefits at the rate of $1,259.03 per month effective July 1, 1988. In the divorce proceeding, wife claimed entitlement to half of each month's disability payment. Husband argued the benefits were his separate property.

The trial court held that husband's disability benefits were jointly-acquired property subject to equal division for the entire time it is paid. That court then certified the holding for interlocutory review stating it "affects a substantial part of the merits of the controversy and that an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of litigation." Certiorari was granted to review the holding. See Okla.Stat. tit. 12, § 952(b)(3)(1981).

Page 1268

Disability benefits are but one form of wage continuation plan. Others include retirement pensions, workers' compensation and severance pay. Although courts have distinguished pension and pension-like benefits from disability benefits, an analytically persuasive and doctrinally sound basis for the distinction has not been extensively articulated. Instead, courts have tended to look at one salient feature of a wage continuation plan and classify it accordingly.

One commentator, however, has offered a more rigorous approach which "focuses on the replacement nature of the benefits and classifies benefits according to the nature of the assets they replace." Blumberg, Marital Property Treatment of Pensions, Disability Pay, Workers' Compensation, and Other Wage Substitutes: An Insurance, or Replacement Analysis, 33 UCLA L.Rev. 1250, 1294 (1986). That approach is followed in resolving the instant question.

All wage continuation plans are deferred compensation and function as insurance. Retirement pensions insure against superannuation, survival beyond retirement age. They function as a substitute for life savings. If a worker was not provided retirement coverage, the additional wages received would presumably be saved for superannuation. These savings, earned during the marriage, would unquestionably constitute joint property.

Disability benefits, on the other hand, do not substitute for savings. Rather, they insure against loss...

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20 practice notes
  • Kendrick v. Kendrick
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • November 16, 1994
    ...pensions as substitutes for savings or investments. In re Marriage of Grubb, 745 P.2d 661, 664-65 (Colo.1987); Christmas v. Christmas, 787 P.2d 1267, 1268 (Okla.1990). Accordingly, pension rights frequently comprise a major portion of many marital estates and often represent one of the part......
  • Crocker v. Crocker, No. 75262
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • December 10, 1991
    ...It is awarded for compensation in lieu of wages during the duration of the impairment. 17 Our analysis in Christmas v. Christmas, 787 P.2d 1267-68 (Okla.1990), is helpful in determining which of the four approaches--mechanistic, unitary, case by case, or analytic--meshes with the Oklahoma W......
  • Lambert v. Lambert, No. 0215-89-3
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • July 31, 1990
    ...or child support. See, e.g., In re Marriage of Costo, 156 Cal.App.3d at 788 n. 12, 203 Cal.Rptr. at 90 n. 12; Christmas v. Christmas, 787 P.2d 1267, 1268 (Okla.1990); Repash v. Repash, 148 Vt. at 72, 528 A.2d at [10 Va.App. 628] Accordingly, although the trial court in this case based its d......
  • Evans v. Evans, No. CS95-04043.
    • United States
    • Family Court of Delaware
    • September 6, 2001
    ...A.2d 1160 (1994); Ciliberti v. Ciliberti, Pa.Super., 374 Pa.Super. 228, 542 A.2d 580 (1988); S.M. Christmas v. B.G. Christmas, Ok.Supr., 787 P.2d 1267 (1990). 3. See e.g., In re Marriage of Smith, Ill.App., 84 Ill.App.3d 446, 39 Ill.Dec. 905, 405 N.E.2d 884 (1980); Kruger v. Kruger, N.J.Sup......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Kendrick v. Kendrick
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • November 16, 1994
    ...pensions as substitutes for savings or investments. In re Marriage of Grubb, 745 P.2d 661, 664-65 (Colo.1987); Christmas v. Christmas, 787 P.2d 1267, 1268 (Okla.1990). Accordingly, pension rights frequently comprise a major portion of many marital estates and often represent one of the part......
  • Crocker v. Crocker, No. 75262
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • December 10, 1991
    ...It is awarded for compensation in lieu of wages during the duration of the impairment. 17 Our analysis in Christmas v. Christmas, 787 P.2d 1267-68 (Okla.1990), is helpful in determining which of the four approaches--mechanistic, unitary, case by case, or analytic--meshes with the Oklahoma W......
  • Lambert v. Lambert, No. 0215-89-3
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • July 31, 1990
    ...or child support. See, e.g., In re Marriage of Costo, 156 Cal.App.3d at 788 n. 12, 203 Cal.Rptr. at 90 n. 12; Christmas v. Christmas, 787 P.2d 1267, 1268 (Okla.1990); Repash v. Repash, 148 Vt. at 72, 528 A.2d at [10 Va.App. 628] Accordingly, although the trial court in this case based its d......
  • Evans v. Evans, No. CS95-04043.
    • United States
    • Family Court of Delaware
    • September 6, 2001
    ...A.2d 1160 (1994); Ciliberti v. Ciliberti, Pa.Super., 374 Pa.Super. 228, 542 A.2d 580 (1988); S.M. Christmas v. B.G. Christmas, Ok.Supr., 787 P.2d 1267 (1990). 3. See e.g., In re Marriage of Smith, Ill.App., 84 Ill.App.3d 446, 39 Ill.Dec. 905, 405 N.E.2d 884 (1980); Kruger v. Kruger, N.J.Sup......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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