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Should veterans' disability checks be factored into alimony?

Many veterans in Massachusetts may be interested to learn about a case that is being presented to the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration. The matter involves the divorce of a disabled veteran who is receiving 100 percent disability payments from the military. He has asked the nation's highest court to consider whether these disability payments should be considered in any calculation for alimony that he must pay to his former wife of 20 years.

Currently, the man's disability income is being factored into calculations in his divorce to determine the amount that he must pay in alimony to his ex-wife each month. He would like the justices to rule that the use such income of a veteran when making such maintenance awards is improper. According to one attorney, only one state bars the use of this income in making the award under current laws.

One of the arguments made in this case revolves around the definition of the intent for the disability pay. The 1982 Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act was interpreted in a 1987 decision so as to define the payments as intended for both the military member and their family. It is unclear if the U.S. Supreme Court will accept the current matter for review or if it will decline to make a ruling on this legal question at this time.

If the court decides to review the case of the military disability payments, its decision could have long-reaching effects on divorce matters for military spouses. Massachusetts, like most states, currently allows the use of the disability income in calculations for spousal maintenance awards. A change in these rules could significantly alter the amounts received by military spouses at the time of a divorce.

Source: HeraldNet.com, "Ruling sought on split of military benefits in divorce," Tom Philpott, May 21, 2012

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