Wherever you are, my love will keep you safe.
My heart will build a bridge of light across both time and space.
Wherever you are, our hearts still beat as one.
I hold you in my dreams each night, until your task is done.*
*By The Military Wives Choir, with lyrics by Gareth Malone
Richard McCarty married Patricia, finished medical school and then became a doctor and commissioned officer in the US Army. For the next 18 years, he completed successive tours of duty in different locations throughout the world, completing his military career as Chief of Cardiology at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco, California
During those same years, Patricia lived as a military wife and mother to their three children. She followed Richard to his duty stations. She kept the home fires burning and performed her duties as a faithful, loving, military wife and mother.
When their marriage ended, Richard filed for divorce in California Court, claiming his future military pension was his separate property. Patricia claimed it was community property, because it was acquired during their marriage. The California Court agreed with Patricia, and awarded her half of the future pension money for the time they were married. Richard appealed all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court agreed with Richard, stating that Federal law considered a military pension the sole property of the military member and no one else. And since Congress specifically wrote the Federal law that way, only Congress could change the law. Richard got to keep his entire pension; Patricia, like thousands of former spouses like her, received none of it.
Congress, recognizing how the law affected the social and economic consequences for many former spouses, quickly changed the law allowing state courts, with certain restrictions, to consider disposable retired pay in divorce proceedings as either separate or community property.
California is a community property state. This means, that upon divorce, each spouse receives one half of the community property. And, although there are a few exceptions, California defines community property as all property, real or personal, acquired by a married person during the marriage. This includes, among other things, pensions, land acquisitions, earnings and other incomes, and anything bought with those earnings or other incomes by the spouses during the marriage.