from the Hamilton Superior Court The Honorable Michael A.
Casati, Judge The Honorable Todd L. Ruetz, Magistrate Trial
Court Cause No. 29D01-0901-DR-42
Attorney for Appellant Cynthia A. Marcus Carmel, Indiana
OF THE CASE
Appellant-Respondent, Travis Edwards (Edwards), appeals the
trial court's partial denial of his motion for relief
Edwards presents us with three issues on appeal, which we
consolidate and restate as: Whether the trial court abused
its discretion when it partially denied his Trial Rule 60(B)
motion for relief from judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
During the marriage of Edwards to Valerie Edwards (Valerie),
Edwards was in active duty in the United States Army.
Edwards' last deployment was to Iraq. Edwards was injured
in combat during that deployment and was eventually diagnosed
with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain
On February 23, 2010, the marriage of Edwards and Valerie was
dissolved pursuant to an agreement that provided that Valerie
would "be entitled to 50% of the monthly pension benefit
accrued during the course of the marriage to and including
the date of the final dissolution to be received by [Edwards]
from the U.S. Military . . . ." (Appellant's App.
Vol. II, p. 35). At the time the dissolution was entered,
Edwards was still on active duty. On October 7, 2011, Edwards
retired from the military, having completed almost
twenty-three years of service. During the months of May 2012
through August 2012, Valerie received 50% of Edwards'
military pension benefit, as provided for by the dissolution
decree. Thereafter, Edwards elected to receive combat-related
service compensation (CRSC). As a result of that election,
Edwards was required to waive his right to his military
pension benefit. In September 2012, Valerie, who was unaware
that Edwards had elected to receive CRSC, received notice
from the entity administering Edwards' pension that she
would no longer receive 50% of Edwards' pension benefit
because he had discontinued receiving it. After electing to
receive CRSC, Edwards did not make any payments to Valerie to
replace the 50% of his pension benefit she had lost as a
result of that election.
On November 12, 2014, Valerie filed a contempt motion seeking
an order directing Edwards to pay her the pension benefit
arrears that had accumulated and to continue to pay her 50%
of the pension benefit, as provided in the dissolution
decree. On September 29, 2015, the trial court held a hearing
on Valerie's contempt motion. Edwards' counsel argued
that Edwards had been required to waive his military pension
benefit as a result of his election to receive CRSC and that
CRSC was non-divisible income pursuant to federal law.
Edwards' counsel also directed the trial court to
Mansell v. Mansell, 490 U.S. 581, 109 S.Ct. 2023,
104 L.Ed.2d 675 (1989), which he contended stood for the
proposition that the trial court could not order Edwards to
indemnify Valerie for her loss of the 50% pension benefit
amount. On December 18, 2015, the trial court found Edwards
in contempt and ordered him to pay Valerie the amount she
lost as a result of his election to receive CRSC. The trial
court relied on this court's decision in Bandini v.
Bandini, 935 N.E.2d 253, 264 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010), which
it cited as holding that "[a] military spouse may not,
by a post-decree waiver of retirement pay in favor of
disability benefits of CRSC, unilaterally and voluntarily
reduce the benefits awarded the former spouse in a
dissolution decree." (Appellant's App. Vol. II, p.
38). The trial court also ordered Edwards to pay $47,
263.75 in accumulated arrears.
Edwards did not appeal the trial court's December 18,
2015 Order (the 2015 Order). On May 3, 2018, Edwards filed
his Verified Motion to Vacate Judgment Pursuant to Trial Rule
60(B)(6) in which he argued that in Howell v.
Howell, 581 U.S. __, 137 S.Ct. 1400, 197 E.Ed.2d 781
(2017), the United States Supreme Court had held that state
courts were not permitted to order a veteran to indemnify a
divorced spouse for the loss of the spouse's portion of
the veteran's retirement pay caused by the veteran's
waiver of retirement pay to receive service-related
disability benefits. Pursuant to Howell, Edwards
contended that the trial court's 2015 Order was void for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
On December 5, 2018, the trial court held a hearing on
Edwards' motion, and, on January 23, 2019, the trial
court issued an order partially denying Edwards relief. The
trial court found that Edwards had not appealed the 2015
Order; the 2015 Order was, thus, binding on the parties; and
the Howell decision, while overruling
Bandini, did not render the 2015 Order void because
it did not indicate that its application was to be
retroactive. Nevertheless, in light of Howell and
treating Edwards' motion as one made pursuant to Trial
Rule 60(B)(7), the trial court held that it was no longer
equitable for the 2015 Order to have prospective effect. The
trial court denied Edwards' ...