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Rischer v. Helzer

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

September 1, 2015

JON RISCHER, GREG RISCHER, and BRAD RISCHER, Respondents,
v.
PATRICIA SUE HELZER, Appellant

Page 189

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Nodaway County, Missouri. The Honorable Roger M. Prokes, Judge.

Jeffrey O. Parshall and Ryan W. Redmon, Columbia, MO, Attorneys for Respondents.

Michael L. Taylor and Jennifer C. Ray, St. Joseph, MO, Attorneys for Appellant.

Karen King Mitchell, Presiding Judge. Lisa White Hardwick and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges, concur.

OPINION

Page 190

Karen King Mitchell, J.

Patricia Helzer appeals the trial court's determination that her agreement to turn over any interest in her former husband's (" Father" ) pension benefits to his sons from his first marriage was enforceable. We affirm.

Background

Father worked for the State of Missouri, as a professor at Northwest Missouri State University. Father retired from the University in the early 1990s, following the death of his first wife, and began collecting benefits from the Missouri State Employees Retirement System (" MOSERS" ). Several years later, in 1997, Father married Helzer. Father identified Helzer as the sole beneficiary for any survivor benefits from the MOSERS plan. Four years later, in 2001, Father and Helzer separated and filed for dissolution of marriage.

Father and Helzer entered into a separation agreement, in which all of the parties' assets were divided. As to Father's pension benefits, the separation agreement provided that, in the event Father died before Helzer, she agreed to set up a bank account in the name of Father's three sons: Jon, Brad and Greg Rischer (collectively " the Rischers" ). The agreement further required Helzer to place all MOSERS benefits she received as Father's beneficiary into the bank account. One of the sons agreed to pay to Helzer an amount equal to any taxes owed on the MOSERS benefits. Father and Helzer filed the separation agreement with the circuit court (" dissolution court" ) and asked the court to approve it. The parties agree that, following a hearing, the dissolution court found that the separation agreement was not unconscionable and incorporated it into the court's dissolution decree. The court dissolved Father and Helzer's marriage on September 26, 2001. Neither party appealed the dissolution judgment.

Father passed away on April 5, 2013, and the following month, Helzer began receiving MOSERS survivor benefits of approximately $2,500 per month. When Helzer refused to comply with the terms of the separation agreement and judgment regarding the MOSERS benefits, the Rischers filed a two-count petition seeking specific performance of the separation agreement and dissolution judgment, or, in the alternative, a constructive trust requiring Helzer to deposit a sum equal to the amount of past and future MOSERS benefit payments into a bank account in the name of the Rischers. Helzer raised a number of affirmative defenses, including

Page 191

that the separation agreement was unenforceable in that it was contrary to MOSERS provisions and void as a matter of law. The circuit court entered a judgment holding that the agreement was enforceable and ...


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