Ohio High Court Backs Ex-wife’s Claim to Life Insurance Benefit

January 5, 2007

A 1990 law automatically terminating life insurance policies between married couples when they divorce doesn’t apply to policies signed before the law passed, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week.

In a unanimous decision, the justices said it is unconstitutional to apply the law to policies that existed before it went into effect, allowing Carol Zerkle to keep the $32,532.30 she received from a policy when her ex-husband, Michael Holycross, died in 2003.

Barbra Holycross, who was married to Michael Holycross when he died, fought Zerkle’s payout as a violation of the 1990 law, arguing that the former wife’s rights to the money were extinguished when she divorced Holycross in 1993.

Zerkle’s name had never specifically been removed from the policy, though, and the high court upheld lower court rulings that found applying the law retroactively would violate the state constitution.

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