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Marriage of Gram

Court of Appeal of California
25 Cal. App. 4th 859 (1994)


Facts

Marilyn (defendant) and Allen (plaintiff) Gram were married in May 1960. Allen became employed with the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspapers (Union-Tribune) in October 1968. Allen began to accrue retirement credit in November 1969. Marilyn and Allen separated in 1981 and entered into a marital termination agreement in 1983. The agreement provided the trial court with continuing jurisdiction to decide how to divide Allen’s employment benefits and provided a formula for the trial court to use in conducting the division. Marilyn was entitled to a one-half interest of the community interest in Allen’s employment benefits. In 1991, the San Diego Union and San Diego Tribune announced that the companies would merge. After the merger, the newspaper companies did not plan to retain all employees of both companies. The companies offered three voluntary-termination incentive plans. The plans available were the enhanced retirement plan, the enhanced early-retirement plan, and the voluntary separation plan. Allen received a statement of benefits detailing how much Allen would receive under each retirement plan. In order to qualify for the enhanced early-retirement plan, Allen had to have at least 10 years of service to Union-Tribune. The plan also added five years to Allen’s years of service and five years to Allen’s age. Under the enhanced early-retirement plan, Allen would receive a significantly greater payment than under any of the other plans. Allen chose to retire under the enhanced early-retirement plan. In 1992, Marilyn petitioned the trial court to rule on whether Allen’s enhanced retirement benefits were separate or community property. The trial court held a hearing and determined that the enhanced portion of Allen’s retirement benefits was Allen’s separate property. Marilyn appealed the trial court’s ruling.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Benke, J.)

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