Law School Case Brief
Huddleson v. Huddleson - 187 Cal. App. 3d 1564, 232 Cal. Rptr. 722 (1986)
Regardless of whether the parties know of, or discussed, a vested pension, if the court was not called upon to award it, and did not award it, as community property, separate property, or any property at all, then the pension is a missed asset subject to a postdissolution claim.
Husband and wife were divorced in 1971. The husband's pension from his employment vested while the dissolution was pending, and was not mentioned in the settlement agreement. Twelve years after the interlocutory decree, the wife sought distribution of the pension as an undistributed community property asset. The trial court calculated the community property interest in the pension as that portion earned during the marriage prior to separation and awarded the wife 12.4 percent of each payment as it was received by husband. The husband appealed asserting that the trial court erred in finding that wife had an interest in his pension benefits, because his pension was not vested as of June 15, 1967, when the parties separated.
Did the pension form part of the couple's community property?
The court affirmed the trial court's judgment and held that the trial court did not err in awarding plaintiff that portion of the pension representing deferred compensation earned by defendant during the marriage up until the date of separation. Plaintiff did not waive her claim by signing the property settlement agreement 12 years previously because the parties admitted they believed at that time that defendant's pension had no cash value and was not a community asset. For the same reason, a general release contained in the property settlement agreement did not bar plaintiff's claim. The defense of laches did not apply because plaintiff's delay was not inexcusable and did not prejudice defendant.
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