In Mansell v. Mansell, 490 U.S. 581 (1989), the United States Supreme Court held the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. § 1408, federally preempted state family courts from equitably distributing a disability retirement pension in a divorce. In 2017, the Court in Howell v. Howell, __ U.S. __, 137 S. Ct. 1400 (2017), held family courts are federally preempted from indemnifying a spouse for the inability to distribute disability benefits, but could take such a contingency into consideration by other means, including modifying or awarding alimony.
In this case, the court reverses the trial court's order, which required the spouse receiving disability benefits to indemnify the payee spouse by paying her a hypothetical value of her share of the pension, because indemnification was preempted by Howell. However, the court holds conversion of the pension into a disability benefit was a substantial and permanent change in circumstances, which invalidated the parties' alimony waiver, and accordingly reverses the trial court's order denying alimony for consideration of such an award.