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Supreme Court hears alimony case after military divorce

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spousal support can be a sticky subject, especially for those who have to pay it. With that in mind, a case highlighting a veteran's fight to protect his benefits after a military divorce may interest Texas service members who are dissolving a marriage.

The disabled Air Force reservist has brought his case before the United States Supreme Court. He says the $1,000 monthly alimony he is required to pay his ex-wife should never have been calculated the way it was. After the divorce, the woman's alimony was calculated by using the reservist's disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and his Social Security benefits. He claims that federal law was violated because his VA benefits are for his welfare only and should not be used to help his spouse.

An Oregon Court of Appeals and the state's Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court's ruling, and the veteran is now appealing to the highest court in the land. The two sides in this case have very different opinions. The veteran's side points out that different states have different laws, and the case could result in the high court unifying those laws with a blanket ruling. Also, the veteran claims the states appear to be ignoring federal mandates about whether certain benefits are allowed to be used in calculating spousal support.

However, the other side argues that since states have different rules, veterans -- just like civilians -- should be required to take care of their families by using what funds are available.

The VA currently pays the Air Force reservist 100 percent disability, which amounts to $2,623 per month. In addition to that, his Social Security benefits come to $1,803. During their 20-year marriage, the woman did not work outside the home, and child support was not due to either party.

The man says he could have swallowed a cut in his Social Security for the alimony, but his VA disability payments are for his benefit alone. Texas service members who are going through a military divorce may want to keep an eye on the outcome of this case. It could spell major changes for how military benefits are calculated for divorcing couples.

Source: Oregon Live, "Oregon veteran seeks Supreme Court review of divorce court allocation of his disability pay," Mike Francis, May 9, 2012

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