The Law School Authority

Cilberti v. Cilberti Case Brief

Summary of Cilberti v. Cilberti,   Sup. Ct. Penn, 1988

Disability Benefits as Marital Property

Relevant Facts: The parties were married and had two children, both of whom were emancipated but lived at the home.  When they filed for divorce the wife worked as a clerk in Philadelphia.  Her net income was $926/mo.  The husband was a disabled policeman earning $635/mo.  One house went to the wife while the other remained with the husband.  The husband would pay alimony for one year, @ $32/week.

Legal Issue(s): Whether police disability pensions are marital property subject to equitable distribution between spouses?

Court’s Holding: Not if they are true disability payments.

Procedure: Trial ct. determined pension is marital property, directed $50/week payments.  Reversed and remanded to determine if/what portion represents a retirement component.

Law or Rule(s): Disability payments are not to be deemed marital property.

Court Rationale: The state statute has determined that military retirement pensions are marital property but that disability payments are not to be deemed so.  This is consistent with federal law also.  Although the Code does not specifically mention disability payment, vested and non-vested military or civilian retirement benefits are considered marital property.  True disability payments are not marital property subject to equitable distribution.  Such benefits are intended to compensate the employee for lost earning capacity.They replace future salary or wages.  Post-divorce payments intended to compensate for an inability to work are not marital property.

Plaintiff’s Argument: (wife) The disability payments accrued as a result of past payments made during the marriage.

Defendant’s Argument: (husband) The payments are for the lost future earnings capacity, and beyond the sphere of a divorce award.

Q – whether disability payments represent past compensation or future earnings and how is that applied to the state jurisdiction, i.e. community property state vs common law?

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