Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Miletello v. R M R Mechanical, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 16, 2019

PAM MILETELLO, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
R M R MECHANICAL, INCORPORATED; SANDRA BELLGARD MILETELLO, Defendants - Appellees

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana

          Before BARKSDALE, SOUTHWICK, and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.

          HAYNES, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         This case is a dispute between decedent Gerald Miletello's ex-wife Sandra and widow Pam about who is entitled to the funds in Gerald's 401(k) retirement account. The dispute hinges on the existence and timing of a "qualified domestic relations order," or QDRO, which is controlled by federal law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Sandra, concluding that she had timely received a QDRO. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the district court's judgment that Sandra is entitled to $500, 000 of the 401(k) balance.

         I. Background

         A. The ERISA Regulatory Scheme

         The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") is a comprehensive federal statute that regulates employee benefit plans. Boggs v. Boggs, 520 U.S. 833, 841 (1997). It covers defined contribution plans like 401(k) accounts. See LaRue v. DeWolff, Boberg & Assocs., Inc., 552 U.S. 248, 250 (2008). ERISA generally prohibits the assignment or alienation of employee benefits under covered plans. 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(1). It also preempts state laws that "relate to" employee benefit plans. Id. § 1144(a).

         But those prohibitions do not apply in the case of a QDRO. Id. §§ 1056(d)(3)(A), 1144(b)(7). A QDRO is a type of domestic relations order, or DRO. A DRO "is any judgment, decree, or order that concerns 'the provision of child support, alimony payments, or marital property rights to a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant' and is 'made pursuant to a State domestic relations law (including a community property law).'" Boggs, 520 U.S. at 846 (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(B)(ii)). A QDRO, in turn, "is a type of domestic relations order that creates or recognizes an alternate payee's right to, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to, a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a plan." Boggs, 520 U.S. at 846 (citing § 1056(d)(3)(B)(i)). Under a QDRO, the alternate payee is considered a beneficiary of the relevant plan. 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(J). The "alternate payee" may be a "spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant." Id. § 1056(d)(3)(K).

         A DRO must satisfy certain requirements to be a QDRO. Boggs, 520 U.S. at 846; 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(B)-(D). ERISA states:

During any period in which the issue of whether a [DRO] is a [QDRO] is being determined (by the plan administrator, by a court of competent jurisdiction, or otherwise), the plan administrator shall separately account for the amounts (hereinafter . . . the "segregated amounts") which would have been payable to the alternate payee during such period if the order had been determined to be a [QDRO].

29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(H)(i). ERISA provides an eighteen-month period for determining whether a DRO is a QDRO. Id. § 1056(d)(3)(H)(i)-(v). The eighteen-month period "begin[s] with the date on which the first payment would be required to be made under the [DRO]." Id. § 1056(d)(3)(H)(v). If during that period, the DRO is determined to be a QDRO, the plan administrator must pay the segregated amounts to the person entitled to them under the QDRO. Id. § 1056(d)(3)(H)(ii). But if (1) the DRO is determined to not be a QDRO, or (2) the issue is unresolved by the time the eighteen-month period expires, the plan administrator must pay the segregated amounts to the person "who would have been entitled to [them] if there had been no order." Id. § 1056(d)(3)(H)(iii). Finally, if a DRO is determined to be a QDRO after the eighteen-month period has expired, such a determination "shall be applied prospectively only." Id. § 1056(d)(3)(H)(iv).

         B. Factual Background

         Gerald Miletello and Appellee Sandra Bellgard Miletello were married. Gerald participated in a 401(k) plan set up and administered by Appellee RMR Mechanical, Inc. ("RMR"). He designated Sandra as the beneficiary of the Plan.

         Sandra and Gerald divorced on January 21, 2014. Gerald married Appellant Pam Miletello four months later, in May 2014. As part of the divorce, Sandra and Gerald agreed to a community property settlement (the "Divorce Settlement"). The Divorce Settlement awarded $500, 000 of the funds in the 401(k), or the balance of the 401(k) if it was less than $500, 000, to Sandra. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.