Marriage of Hisquierdo, In re

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtMOSK; BIRD
Citation19 Cal.3d 613,139 Cal.Rptr. 590,566 P.2d 224
Parties, 566 P.2d 224 In re the MARRIAGE OF Angela and Jess H. HISQUIERDO. Jess H. HISQUIERDO, Respondent, v. Angela HISQUIERDO, Appellant. L.A. 30712.
Decision Date12 July 1977

Page 590

139 Cal.Rptr. 590
19 Cal.3d 613, 566 P.2d 224
In re the MARRIAGE OF Angela and Jess H. HISQUIERDO.
Jess H. HISQUIERDO, Respondent,
v.
Angela HISQUIERDO, Appellant.
L.A. 30712.
Supreme Court of California, In Bank.
July 12, 1977.

[19 Cal.3d 614]

Page 591

[566 P.2d 225] Howard M. Fields, for appellant.

James D. Endman, Los Angeles, for respondent.

[19 Cal.3d 615] MOSK, Justice.

We are called upon to decide whether benefits afforded by the Railroad Retirement Act (45 U.S.C. § 231 et seq.) are community property. 1

Jess and Angela Hisquierdo were married in 1958 and separated in 1972. Wife was employed throughout the period of the marriage; they had no children. At the time of the dissolution of marriage hearing in 1975, she was 53 years old and husband was 55. He had been employed by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad from 1942 to 1975, and thereafter by the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. Both of these employments entitle him to retirement benefits under the act when he reaches the age of 60.

In January 1975, husband filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage. The trial court's interlocutory judgment divided the community property by awarding him the residence of the parties, in which there was an equity of $12,828, and furniture and fixtures which had a value of $500. Wife was awarded $100 in a mutual fund, and a 1965 automobile. In order to equalize distribution, husband was ordered to pay wife $6,364, plus interest, in monthly installments. The court refused to grant wife any interest in husband's railroad retirement benefits, or the equivalent thereof, on the ground that she had no community interest in those funds. Wife appeals, contending that the retirement benefits which accrued to husband during the 13 years of marriage constitute community property, and that the trial court erred in refusing to award her one-half of such benefits.

The United States Supreme Court in Wissner v. Wissner (1950) 338 U.S. 655, 70 S.Ct. 398, 94 L.Ed. 424, held that California's community property law could not be applied to the proceeds of a policy for National Service Life Insurance, claimed by a widow who was not the beneficiary of the policy, because Congress had made it plain, by providing for the insured serviceman's right to change the beneficiary, that the proceeds belong to the beneficiary designated by the insured. In California, retirement benefits resulting from employment during marriage are community property, subject to division in the event of dissolution of the marriage. (Waite v. Waite (1972) 6 Cal.2d 461, 470,[19 Cal.3d 616] 99 Cal.Rptr. 325, 492 P.2d 13 (overruled on other grounds in In re Marriage of Brown (1976) 15 Cal.3d 838, 851 fn. 14, 126 Cal.Rptr. 633, 544 P.2d 561).) Several recent decisions have held that pension rights created under federal law constitute community property to the extent that they are attributable to employment during marriage. (E.g., In re Marriage of Fithian (1974) 10 Cal.3d 592, 111 Cal.Rptr. 369, 517 P.2d 449; Bensing v. Bensing (1972) 25 Cal.App.3d 889, 102 Cal.Rptr. 255; In re Marriage of Karlin (1972) 24 Cal.App.3d 25, 101 Cal.Rptr. 240; but see In re Marriage of Brown (1976) 15 Cal.3d 838, 851 fn. 14, 126 Cal.Rptr. 633, 544 P.2d 561.

The principle that has emerged from these decisions is that whenever there is a conflict between a federal statute affording annuity or insurance benefits and state community property laws the federal statute must prevail. However, if the intent of Congress in creating the federal right is not violated by application of California's community property laws, then the status of such rights is governed by California law. (See e.g., Fithian, 10 Cal.3d at p. 598, 111

Page 592

[566 P.2d 226] Cal.Rptr. 369, 517 P.2d 449; In re Marriage of Milhan (1974) 13 Cal.3d 129, 132, 117 Cal.Rptr. 809, 528 P.2d 1145.) Our task, then, is to determine whether Congress intended that railroad retirement benefits remain the separate property of the employee.

Husband relies upon various provisions of the act as indicating an intent by Congress to tender annuities payable thereunder the separate property of the spouse whose employment is covered by the act. He first quotes the following provision contained in section 231m: 'Notwithstanding any other law of the United States, or of any State, territory, or the District of Columbia, no annuity or supplemental annuity shall be assignable or be subject to any tax or to garnishment, attachment, or other legal process under any circumstances whatsoever, Nor shall the payment thereof be anticipated . . ..' (Italics added.)

This provision, with the exception of the clause italicized, is substantially similar to other statutes placing federal and state retirement or insurance benefits beyond the grasp of creditors. (E.g., 10 U.S.C. § 1440 (military annuities); 38 U.S.C. § 3101 (veteran's benefits); Gov.Code, § 21201 (retirement annuities for state employees).) Such statutes do...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 practice notes
  • Marriage of Campa, In re
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 2, 1979
    ...of pension benefits in marriage dissolutions has been rejected by our Supreme Court. (See In re Marriage of Fithian, supra, (1977) 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 566 P.2d 224; In re Marriage of Fithian, It remains for us to address several specific contentions made by the Fund. A. The Fu......
  • Stone v. Stone, No. C-77-1124-CBR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 18, 1978
    ...does not constitute assignment, execution, garnishment, or attachment prohibited by state pension law); see In re Marriage of Hisquierdo, 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 592 & n.2, 566 P.2d 224 (1977) (same principle applied to federal benefit statutes with creditor exemption provisions),......
  • Marriage of Milhan, In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 17, 1980
    ...was awarded attorneys' fees of $1,500. 2 The Supreme Court reversed the decision of this court in In re Marriage of Hisquierdo (1977) 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 566 P.2d 224, and remanded the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with its 3 In addition, Mr. Milhan argued that......
  • Olson v. Olson, No. 880223
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • July 17, 1989
    ...Nizenkoff, 65 Cal.App.3d 136, 135 Cal.Rptr. 189 (1976). Following the California Supreme Court decision in In re Marriage of Hisquierdo, 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 566 P.2d 224 (1977), California courts took a different stance: "We hold that ... Congress, in enacting the Social Secur......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Marriage of Campa, In re
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 2, 1979
    ...of pension benefits in marriage dissolutions has been rejected by our Supreme Court. (See In re Marriage of Fithian, supra, (1977) 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 566 P.2d 224; In re Marriage of Fithian, It remains for us to address several specific contentions made by the Fund. A. The Fu......
  • Stone v. Stone, No. C-77-1124-CBR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 18, 1978
    ...does not constitute assignment, execution, garnishment, or attachment prohibited by state pension law); see In re Marriage of Hisquierdo, 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 592 & n.2, 566 P.2d 224 (1977) (same principle applied to federal benefit statutes with creditor exemption provisions),......
  • Marriage of Milhan, In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 17, 1980
    ...was awarded attorneys' fees of $1,500. 2 The Supreme Court reversed the decision of this court in In re Marriage of Hisquierdo (1977) 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 566 P.2d 224, and remanded the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with its 3 In addition, Mr. Milhan argued that......
  • Olson v. Olson, No. 880223
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • July 17, 1989
    ...Nizenkoff, 65 Cal.App.3d 136, 135 Cal.Rptr. 189 (1976). Following the California Supreme Court decision in In re Marriage of Hisquierdo, 19 Cal.3d 613, 139 Cal.Rptr. 590, 566 P.2d 224 (1977), California courts took a different stance: "We hold that ... Congress, in enacting the Social Secur......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT