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New Mexico court rules on military pensions in divorce cases

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: April 1, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico courts can't order a veteran to reimburse a former spouse for a share of the veteran's military pension under a divorce agreement that ended when the veteran opted to receive disability benefits instead, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

However, the justices' unanimous decision said trial judges can consider other legal options for adjusting the financial support the veteran provides his or her former spouse.

The New Mexico high court partly hinged its ruling on a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision preventing states from treating waived military retirement benefits as community property that can be divided in a divorce.

The state court's ruling said the 2017 decision applies retroactively to a New Mexico couple in the case decided Thursday.

The former spouse of Jeffery Russ had asked a trial judge to order Russ to reimburse her for reduced alimony after his military retirement pay ended.

The ruling Thursday sent the case back to trial court for further consideration and noted that military disability benefits can be considered a source of income for family support.