The case, Howell versus Howell, started back in 1991 when Sandra Howell was awarded half of her husband John Howell’s Air Force retirement pay. In May of 2017 it finally ended when Super Lawyers selectee Adam Unikowsky successfully argued that there was a difference between retirement pay and disability pay.
Sandra Howell was originally awarded half of her ex-husbands retirement pay based on the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. The law offers financial protection to former spouses of service members. However, in 2005 John learned he was eligible for disability pay that, as opposed to retirement pay, is tax exempt. John decided to waive $250 of his $1,500 retirement and replace it with the disability pay.
After Sandra sued for half of John’s disability pay, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld her argument that it should be treated the same as retirement so she was entitled to half of the $250 as well.
Unikowsky argued that Congress intended disabled veterans to keep their disability pay because it offers financial assistance that replaces possible lost wages based on their injuries. For that reason the separate disability pay could not be counted in the Spouses’ Protection Act in the same way as retirement benefits.
Complex and detailed cases like these are why Super Lawyers selectees are regarded so highly by their peers. Nomination and selection show how valuable an attorney to their client and also in the eyes of their fellow lawyers.