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Baker v. Baker

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

August 23, 2019

DENNIS E. BAKER APPELLANT
v.
MARY PATRICIA BAKER APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM KENTON FAMILY COURT HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER J. MEHLING, JUDGE ACTION NO. 94-CI-02046

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Dennis E. Baker, pro se Independence, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Jennifer B. Landry Covington, Kentucky

          BEFORE: LAMBERT, MAZE, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          LAMBERT, JUDGE.

         In this post-dissolution appeal, Dennis E. Baker has sought review of the June 11, 2018, judgment of the Kenton Family Court ordering him to pay his former wife, Mary Patricia Baker (Patty), the sum of $6, 519.12 as her share of his past retirement benefits. We affirm.

         Dennis and Patty were married in Kenton County, Kentucky, on March 16, 1985, and they separated on December 5, 1994. Patty filed a petition to dissolve the marriage less than two weeks later in which she sought an equitable distribution of the parties' property. She was employed at Celestial Restaurant, and Dennis worked for CSX Transportation. The parties entered into a separation agreement in April 1996, which the court adopted in its findings of facts and conclusions of law and in the decree dissolving the marriage that were entered May 8, 1996. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement, Patty was to receive:

An equal percentage of the Husband's railroad retirement account as it is determined to be by the plan administrator from the date of the parties [sic] marriage on March 16, 1985 until the entry of the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage by this Court[.]

         The agreement went on to provide:

Both Parties agree that in the event any document, legal instrument, or other writing is necessary to effect the terms and provisions of this agreement, each party will produce, execute, and/or sign such document in order to effect the intent and purposes of this agreement.

         Two decades later, on June 28, 2016, Patty filed a motion regarding her interest in Dennis's railroad retirement benefits, noting that Dennis had begun drawing his retirement within the last year. She requested a hearing date to determine what her monthly amount due would be and to order the Railroad Retirement Plan Administrator to begin paying her the proportionate amount to which was entitled under the separation agreement. The family court entered a qualified domestic relations Oorder (QDRO) on July 17, 2017, in which the court found that Dennis's non-tier I benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act were marital property and subject to allocation. The court awarded and directed the Railroad Retirement Board to pay Patty an interest in Dennis's benefits based upon the appropriate computation. Patty began receiving $271.63 per month as her portion of Dennis's railroad retirement benefits on August 1, 2017.

         On December 20, 2017, Patty, represented by new counsel, filed a motion to obtain the two years of retirement benefits she did not receive because Dennis failed to notify her that he had retired or to notify the Railroad Retirement Board that the amount was required to be divided as marital property. Because the Railroad Retirement Board did not have the authority to pay past due benefits to her, as the benefits were paid directly to Dennis, Patty moved the court to order Dennis to pay her the amount due to her from the date of his retirement until she began receiving benefits.

         The family court held a hearing on Patty's motion on May 24, 2018. Dennis informed the court that he had retired July 1, 2015, and that he was currently receiving approximately $3, 800 per month in railroad retirement benefits. Patty stated that she had not received any benefits until the QDRO was filed in July 2017 and wanted back due benefits from the date of Dennis's retirement two years prior to that. The parties did not dispute that the amount she was receiving was $271.63 per month.

         Patty testified about the separation agreement, specifically, that she was to receive a portion of Dennis's railroad retirement benefits. She stated that it was not until December 2015 that she found out from mutual friends - not Dennis - that he had retired. Patty first tried to obtain her benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board on her own. That did not work, and she hired an attorney who later passed away. Dennis had received the full amount of benefits from the time of his retirement, which included the amount to which she was entitled under the separation agreement. Patty stated the delay was caused by her trying to handle the matter on her own and then the death of her first attorney. Patty admitted that she did not attempt to file a QDRO between the date of their divorce and December 2015, although she had the information in the separation agreement necessary ...


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