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ELEANORE STINNER v. DONALD E. STINNER AND BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION (02/08/89)

decided: February 8, 1989.

ELEANORE STINNER, APPELLANT,
v.
DONALD E. STINNER AND BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, entered April 6, 1987, at No. 1258 PHL 1986, affirming the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, entered January 20, 1986, at Nos. 1979-C-7428 and No. 1979-CE-7429. Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala, Papadakos and Stout, JJ. McDermott, J., concurs in the result. Zappala, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Stout

[ 520 Pa. Page 376]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from a decision of the Superior Court that affirmed a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County that refused to enforce Appellant Eleanore Stinner's writ of execution to garnish Appellee Donald E. Stinner's pension plan in order to recover sums due Appellant for alimony. We reverse.

The question for decision is whether the Order of February 5, 1980,*fn1 which was entered in enforcement of the parties' property settlement agreement of June 10, 1977, which contained a provision for the payment of alimony to the wife until death or remarriage,*fn2 is a qualified domestic

[ 520 Pa. Page 377]

    relations order within the meaning of Section 206(d) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461 (1982), as amended by the Retirement Equity Act of 1984, 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d) (1982 & Supp. III 1985).

The pertinent sections of the Act read:

Section 1056

(d) Assignment or alienation of plan benefits

(1) Each pension plan shall provide that benefits provided under the plan may not be assigned or alienated.

(3)(A) Paragraph (1) shall apply to the creation, assignment, or recognition of a right to any benefit payable with respect to a participant pursuant to a domestic relations order, except that paragraph (1) shall not apply if the order is determined to be a qualified domestic relations order. Each pension plan shall provide for the payment of benefits in accordance with the applicable requirements of any qualified domestic relations order.

(B) For purposes of this paragraph --

(i) the term "qualified domestic relations order" means a domestic relations order --

(I) which creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee's right to, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to, receive all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a plan, and

(II) with respect to which the requirements of sub-paragraph[] (C) . . . are met, and

[ 520 Pa. Page 378]

(ii) the term "domestic relations order" means any judgment, decree, or order (including approval of a property settlement agreement) which --

(I) relates to the provision of child support, alimony payments, or marital property rights to a spouse, former spouse, child or ...


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