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In re Marriage of Manry

January 8, 1991

IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF MARILYN PATRICIA MANRY, APPELLANT, AND CHARLES W. MANRY, SR., RESPONDENT


Shields, J. Green, C.j., and Thompson, J., concur.

Author: Shields

Marilyn and Charles Manry were married on September 3, 1960, and separated on November 7, 1986. Their marriage was dissolved in 1987. Their assets and liabilities were valued as of the date of separation, and divided between them. Mrs. Manry appeals; we affirm.

The issue is whether the court abused its discretion by (1) awarding to Mr. Manry an increase in the value of his retirement benefits, which accrued after separation but prior to trial, and (2) holding Mrs. Manry responsible for payment of a Citibank Visa debt incurred during the marriage but without Mr. Manry's knowledge.

I

The Retirement Plan

When they separated, the parties were comparably employed; Mrs. Manry was a manager with Boeing Computer Services and Mr. Manry was an engineer with Rockwell/Hanford Operations, a Department of Energy (DOE) contractor in the Tri-Cities area. Prior to that, Mr. Manry had worked for a succession of companies on DOE contracts. With each change of employer, his accrued rights under retirement plans were "rolled over"*fn1 into the retirement plan of the new employer. On the date of separation,

Mr. Manry had vested monthly retirement benefits of $953 maturing at age 65, based on 21 years of service.

About 7 months after separation, Westinghouse took over the DOE contract. Mr. Manry continued working at Hanford, but for Westinghouse. After June 29, 1987, the Rockwell retirement plan was rolled over into the Westinghouse plan, with full retirement benefits maturing at age 62 instead of 65. Another change was expected, effective January 1, 1988, which would reduce the maturity date to age 60.

Mrs. Manry contends Mr. Manry's retirement benefits are community property which fortuitously increased in value between the date of separation and the time of trial. She asserts the court erred in characterizing the increased value as separate, rather than community, property. She does not challenge the court's valuation of the other community assets at the date of separation.

[1] The court has broad discretion in the disposition of property in dissolution actions, and that disposition will not be disturbed absent a manifest abuse of discretion. Lucker v. Lucker, 71 Wash. 2d 165, 167, 426 P.2d 981 (1967). Both Mr. and Mrs. Manry's accountants used the date of separation for calculating the value of Mrs. Manry's retirement benefits and Mr. Manry's military retirement benefits. However, Mrs. Manry's accountant used the date of trial rather than the date of separation in determining the value of Mr. Manry's Westinghouse/Hanford retirement plan, while Mr. Manry's accountant used the date of separation to value the Rockwell/Hanford plan.*fn2 The court accepted the Rockwell/Hanford plan valuation in making its disposition.

The Rockwell/Hanford plan was a defined benefit plan, fully vested but unmatured. Since it was a private plan established by an employer engaged in commerce or in an industry affecting commerce, it was subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 1001-1461. Establishing present value of Mr. Manry's benefits requires calculating how much cash in a lump sum would be required to provide an annuity of a specific amount for his expected remaining life after retirement. Valuation is necessarily imprecise because benefits generally rise with ...


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