Maryland uses something called “the Bangs formula” to decide the marital share of an asset in a divorce case. The formula is called this because of a 1984 case called Bangs v. Bangs. Under the formula, the court looks at the number of years of a person’s working life, during which time the pension accrues. That determines the pension’s value. The percentage of the total working life that happened during the marriage is marital and the percentage that happens before or after is nonmarital. Any additional months of life or marriage after the pension stops accruing are not part of the figure.
A 2009 case examined the application of the Bangs formula. In that case, the husband and wife were married in 1990 and had two children. The husband was a police officer who sustained numerous physical injuries. He was eligible for regular retirement in 1997, but was approached by the county to take a disability retirement, which he took. The couple separated in 2003. The wife moved to Indiana.
The couple divorced in 2007, by which time the husband’s police department service during the marriage had been 12 years and 11 months. In his complaint for divorce, the husband asked for several things including child support, contribution from the wife for medical expenses and health insurance for the children, and use of the family home. The wife counterclaimed and a trial was held.
The judge granted the divorce to the husband on the basis of two years separation. The judge ordered the wife to pay child support, but also awarded the wife a monetary award of $28, 403. He also ordered the husband to pay 32% of his pension to the wife. The judge had used the Bangs formula to determine what the marital and nonmarital portions of the disability pension were. He determined that 64% was marital and 36% was nonmarital and awarded the wife 50% of the marital portion.
The husband filed a brief related to a mathematical error in the judge’s determination of how much of the disability pension was considered a marital asset. The judge amended his judgment to award the wife 25% of the pension payments.
The wife appealed on many grounds, including a challenge to the court’s amended judgment related to the pension. The appellate court noted that the judge had made an arithmetical error in his original Bangs formula calculation before he amended the divorce judgment. Someone had either misspoken or mistyped the word “nonmarital” actually meaning “marital.”
In this case, the total working life of the husband was 312 months or 26 years. The judge used the formula to determine how many were marital and how many not. The court explained that it is “working years and months of marriage.” In the Bangs case, there were no years or months of marriage left over once the pension stopped growing.
The judge in this case had made a mere error in calculation. The number of years and months the couple was married and the husband was working was 12 years and 11 months or 155 working months. 155/312 total months of work is 49.7%, which the judge rounded to 50%. The judge had awarded the wife 50% of the 50% or 25% of the pension.
The appellate court noted that the original error could affect other portions of the judgment, including the amount that the wife was ordered to pay. The appellate court remanded the case back to the judge to adjust the child support figure and others affected by the original computational error.
If you are going through a divorce with property issues, an experienced Maryland family law attorney can make a world of difference. Contact our office via the online form for a legal consultation.
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