Berry v. Berry

In Berry v. Berry, 647 S.W.2d 945 (Tex. 1983) the Court dealt with the effect of pay increases in the later years of employment on defined-benefits that are calculated based not only on length of service, but also on compensation. Retirement benefits calculated this way do not accrue equally across the span of employment if compensation changes; in Berry, for example, the value of the payments available under such a defined-benefit plan more than quadrupled in the last third of the employed spouse's career. Id. In recognition of this effect, and in an effort to better safeguard the working spouse's separate-property interests, the Berry court limited the community's interest to the benefits that accrued during the marriage. To do so, the court calculated the payments that hypothetically would have been due if, on the date that the employed spouse's marital status changed, the benefits were vested and matured and he retired. Id. The Texas Supreme Court reaffirmed the Taggart formula (Taggart v. Taggart, 552 S.W.2d 422, 423, 20 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 334 (Tex. 1977)) for determining the extent of the community interest in retirement benefits. However, the court held that when the value of such benefits is in issue, the benefits are to be apportioned to the spouses based upon the value of the community's interest at the time of divorce, not at the time of retirement. In Berry , the husband retired after the divorce, and his retirement benefits increased as a result of pay raises and an improved benefit plan. The court determined that to allow the wife to share in these post-divorce increases would impermissibly invade the husband's separate property. Id. at 947.