Domestic Partner Benefits

Foundation Publication Search Results

These summaries were compiled from Foundation Publications Search, a database of articles, research reports and books published by the International Foundation and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists.


Separated Spouse Entitled to Pension Benefits Over Common-Law Partner.
Gruber, David; Plans & Trusts; v34 no2 pp 30-31 Mar-Apr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : A 2016 judgement from the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench held that a separated but legally married spouse has priority over a common-law partner, even though the plan member had designated his common-law partner as the plan beneficiary, both in his will and in a plan document.
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Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses After Windsor and Obergefell.
Solomon, Todd A.; Tiemann, Brian J.; Benefits Magazine; v53 no2 pp 32-35 Feb 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Now that same-sex couples may marry—and their marriages must be recognized—in all 50 states, employers must be sure to treat all married couples the same in making benefits available. Many employers are reassessing whether to offer benefits to unmarried domestic partners.
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Quick Look: Domestic Partner Benefits.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no10 p 12 Oct 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in "Obergefell v. Hodges" that states cannot refuse to license same-sex marriage or refuse to recognize those performed in other states.
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Domestic Partner Benefits After the Supreme Court Decision: 2015 Survey Results
1 p 2015; survey

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015 means all states must license same-sex marriages or recognize those performed in other states. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans administered a survey to find out how the Obergefell v. Hodges decision will affect employers.
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More Employers Offer Benefits to Same-Sex Couples.
Mrkvicka, Neil; Benefits Magazine; v51 no9 pp 8-9 Sep 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Charting changes in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, a mid-2014 survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans shows an increase in employers who offer benefits to same-sex couples, from 61 percent in 2013 to 82 percent in 2014. Of 538 respondents, 76 percent offer benefits to same-sex married couples, 62 percent to same-sex domestic partners and 49 percent to same-sex civil union couples. Just one percent plan to terminate benefits for unmarried same-sex partners. Nearly six in ten employers operate in both states where same-sex marriage is legal and where it is not, and 80 percent of them extend benefits to all same-sex married couples regardless of location. Close to one-third offer benefits for married and unmarried same-sex couples in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage as legal.
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Employee Benefits for Same-Sex Couples: The DOMA Decision One Year Later
1 p 2014; survey

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : One year after the landmark Supreme Court Windsor decision, employers have moved beyond hesitation and are adjusting plans, including extending benefits to become compliant. Most employers reported the decision has made an impact on their organization. Beyond the compliance mandates, more than half of surveyed employers are reporting a desire to be more inclusive of different types of families as part of the corporate culture.
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Domestic Partner Does Not Satisfy Plan's Definition of Dependent.
Benefits Magazine; v51 no2 pp 64-65 Feb 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : An employee enrolled her domestic partner in a group health insurance plan, completing a Domestic Partnership Enrollment Form Addendum and paying premiums. After the partner incurred $750,000 in bills from an injury, the plan administrator rescinded coverage, saying the partner was never eligible as a spouse dependent and was married to another person at the time. The partner assigned rights to pursue claims to the hospital, but the district court dismissed the hospital's claim, finding it lacked standing to sue under ERISA since it was not a plan participant or beneficiary. The partner also lacked standing since she did not meet the plan's clear definition of spouse nor was she legally married to the employee. The Tenth Circuit Appeals Court upheld the lower court, denying the hospital's claim under ERISA.
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Employers React to Landmark DOMA Decision.
Mrkvicka, Neil; Benefits Magazine; v50 no11 pp 10-11 Nov 2013; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : A month after the August 6, 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans surveyed human resource professionals from a range of organizations, industries, regions and company sizes. Of the 915 respondents, 77.1 percent had positive reactions to the ruling, especially those in larger organizations. About one third are holding off any immediate changes, and most want further official guidance. Over 12 percent have put out employee communications and 46.3 percent plan to do so. The majority are reviewing key definitions and usage of relevant terms in plan documents, benefit forms and policies. Almost 55 percent offer benefits to same-sex spouses, domestic partners and partners in civil unions, while 38.6 percent have no same-sex partner benefits.
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Preretirement Death Benefits in Ontario: A Carrigan Update.
Godkewitsch, Clio M.; Plans & Trusts; v31 no4 p 15 Jul-Aug 2013; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Carrigan v. Carrigan Estate the common law spouse of a deceased registered pension plan participant sought priority entitlement to the preretirement death benefit over the designated beneficiaries, the former spouse, still legally married to the deceased, and daughters. The Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled neither woman clearly fit the definition of spouse and instead focused on designated beneficiaries under Pension Benefits Act Section 48(6). Not being legally divorced, the former spouse retained priority. The Supreme Court of Canada declined to review the case, leaving the Appeal Court's ruling as law, undoing the prevailing legal understanding and practice of Ontario pension plan stakeholders. The decision is expected to lead to an amendment to the Pension Benefits Act.
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Married vs. Common Law Entitlement to Death Benefit.
Godkewitsch, Clio M.; Plans & Trusts; v31 no1 pp 18-19 Jan-Feb 2013; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : After 23 years of marriage a pension plan member separated from his wife, though not formally, and died 12 years later. He had designated this first wife and daughters as beneficiaries of death benefits and had also started a domestic relationship with another woman. On his death, both women claimed benefits, relying on different sections of the Ontario Pension Benefits Act to support their claims. The trial court recognized both as spouses but ruled the second woman, as live-in spouse at the time of death, qualified for the preretirement death benefit. The Ontario Court of Appeal reversed the ruling in a split decision, with the majority finding the first wife a qualified designated beneficiary to whom the plan member had been legally married. Recognizing two categories of spouse, the majority favored the legal designation over the common law arrangement. The decision puts in question the priority of the cohabitating spouse at the time of death, long followed by most plan administrators, and should prompt a review of member communications about keeping beneficiary designations current.
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Lump-Sum Transfer Out of LIRA for Spousal Support Allowed.
Ferreira, Katherine; Plans & Trusts; v30 no4 pp 13-14 Jul-Aug 2012; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The case of Briere v. Sainte-Pierre is remarkable for a lump sum from a locked in retirement account (LIRA) being used to pay spousal support. The parties were common law spouses for 24 years. After separation Briere never paid court-ordered spousal support. He quit work and got severance, cashed out his pension plan, transferred all funds to a personal account and received permission to unlock LIRA funds for undue hardship. Two years later, finding ample grounds for contempt by Briere, the court ordered that the LIRA be frozen to Briere while and $200,000 was transferred as a lump sum to Sainte-Pierre, ending further support payments. The court relied on Pension Benefits Act Section 65(3) for this exceptional assignment for the purpose of support.
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Court Considers "Living Separate and Apart".
Godkewitsch, Clio; Canadian Benefits & Compensation Digest; v29 no4 pp 5, 7 Aug 2011; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Carrigan V. Quinn, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decided a conflict between a deceased pension plan member's estranged spouse and the spouse he was living with at the time of his death. While at the time of his death he was legally married to the first woman, he had been cohabiting with the second woman for eight years. The court affirmed a family law principle that only one party needed to have intention to separate to establish a separation of spouses. Since the deceased was living separate and apart from his legal wife and had openly demonstrated that he had no intention to resume cohabiting with her, the court ruled that the woman he was cohabiting with at the time of his death was his spouse for purposes of his death benefit.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v48 no6 pp 67-68 Jun 2011; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Union Security Insurance Co. v. Blakeley et al., the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court resolved the issue of definition of domestic partner when a deceased plan participant's fiancee and children made competing claims to death benefits. Finding the definition in the plan document, the court overturned a magistrate judge's reliance on state statute and remanded the case for consideration using the discovered criteria. In Gretsky v. Edelstein & Co LLP et al., the defendant failed to deliver plan documents to clarify matching contribution calculations and later fired the plaintiff after the plaintiff complained to the Employee Benefits Security Administration. The District Court for Massachusetts supported the plaintiff in his efforts to recover benefits and show breach of fiduciary duty by the company. The court also found evidence supporting a retaliatory discharge claim but dismissed motions against individual partners. In Grant-Bullens v. New Jersey Building Laborers Statewide Annuity Fund et al., the District Court for New Jersey granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment without prejudice. The plaintiff alleged the plan administrator overpaid her ex husband in a divorce division of her pension plan assets. The court ruled the plaintiff should have pursued available administrative remedies. In Duehr et al. v. Marriott Hotel Management Co. VI Inc., the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered a default judgment for the plaintiff, the fiduciary for a multiemployer pension plan. The defendant company had failed to make required contributions for over one year, not responded to demands and provided no explanation for its inaction.
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Court Order on Quasi-Marital Relationship Is a QDRO.
Benefits & Compensation Legal & Legislative Reporter; v43 no4 pp 7, 10 Apr 2009; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court recognized a common law marriage of over 30 years to be equivalent to a marriage for ERISA purposes. In Owens v. Automotive Machinists Pension Trust, the plaintiff was separated from her partner and filed a claim for equitable distribution of property in state court. When the partner filed for early retirement benefits, she filed for a half share. The state court issued an order as a qualified domestic relations order and named the plaintiff as an alternate payee. The district court supported this ruling and was upheld by the Ninth Circuit. The appeals court recognized the legal validity of the relationship, the plaintiff as an alternate payee and the community property and rejected the defendant's effort to apply the Defense of Marriage Act.
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