Veteran disability payments may be exempt from military divorce

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Military Family Law on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

Virginia couples, who divorce, can face complicated issues, particularly related to their finances. The issues become even more complex when it is a military divorce. Military divorce presents a unique situation because there are additional rules that apply to U.S. service members that do not apply to their civil counterparts.

Virginia's neighboring state is considering adding yet another rule to the military law that governs such divorces. Senators in West Virginia have proposed a bill that would exclude veterans' disability payments from family support requirements. This is an exception to current law, which allows a divorce court to consider any source of income when determining family support. Lawmakers in support of the legislation argue that including such military disability pay in income calculations is unfair since the payments are intended to compensate for service.

Although military divorce presents a unique situation, Virginians should remember that state and federal law treat these divorces similar to civilian divorces in many respects. For example, military retirement benefits are typically indistinguishable from civilian retirement benefits in divorce. In fact, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act outlines that state courts -- including those in Virginia -- should divide military retirement benefits according to the state law that governs civilian divorce property division.

Former spouses of military personnel can also recover additional benefits that civilians usually cannot, however. For instance, when a couple has been married for 20 years or more, the former spouse may be entitled to full medical privileges. This is quite a significant benefit that may outweigh the loss of income from disability payments.

When comparing the proposed legisaltion to existing law, it is clear that there are both similarities and differences between civilian and military divorces. Navigating the marriage and divorce laws is defintiely not an easy task. Seeking out advice is usually essential to maximize the benefits the laws offer in these different situations.

Source: Woub Public Media, "WV Bill Would Exempt Veterans' Payments From Divorce," March 16, 2013.

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