A recent petition for a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court will be of interest to Florida veterans and their spouses who are considering divorce. The petition asks the court to consider the question of whether federal law is violated when states are allowed to count a veteran's disability payments in deciding the amount of spousal support.
The case in question involves the marriage dissolution of a disabled veteran and his spouse. The district court judge awarded alimony in the amount of $1,000 per month based in part on the veteran's disability benefits. Due to the man's post-traumatic stress disorder, he has become unemployable. Therefore, his only sources of income are his veteran's benefits and Social Security disability payments.
The veteran appealed the spousal support award, but the state appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision. The veteran's attorney then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing.
The man's attorney has cited a particular section of federal law that makes VA disability payments off-limits to levies, creditors' claims and taxation. He wants the high court to find that the same section also keeps disability pay from being included in spousal support calculations.
All states but one permit spousal or child support payments to be taken from veteran's benefits, but a single state recently enacted contrary legislation. The petition also asks the justices to decide whether federal law prohibits consideration of VA disability benefits during marital asset division under state law divorce provisions. State courts have also been divided on this issue, though the division is less extreme than on the alimony issue.
Source: Pensacola News Journal, "Will justices review how states treat vets disability pay?" Tom Philpott, May 19, 2012.