Can VA Disability Compensation Be Used to Calculate Child Support or Income?

By Travis Gray, J.D.

Can VA Disability Compensation Be Used to Calculate Child Support or Income?

By Travis Gray, J.D.

While courts typically protect benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from some collection activities, these protections don't extend to child support payments in most states. When you divorce, the court calculates the individual income of both parents when determining if child support payments are necessary. Most of the time, VA benefits are included as income in these calculations.

Hands holding a piece of paper that reads "VA Disability Pay"

VA Disability Benefits Basics

The purpose of VA disability benefits is to compensate disabled veterans and their families for injuries that have impaired their future earning ability. According to a 2016 VA report, more than 4.26 million veterans receive some type of disability benefit each year. These benefits are intended not only for the needs of the veteran but also to support dependents that would otherwise rely on that veteran's income. For those reasons, a court is likely to consider any VA disability benefits as part of your income to calculate child support payments.

If you want to be treated fairly in your divorce decree, an accurate representation of your income and assets is critical. If the judge in your divorce case is presented with an inaccurate picture of your finances, it is possible you could be required to pay an unfair amount of child support.

Other Factors That Affect VA Benefits

Because all of your income and liabilities affect each other, it is essential to understand the different circumstances where your VA benefits can be impacted. If you face other debts and responsibilities, the amount of child support you may be required to pay could also be affected.

Property Division in Divorce

In your divorce case, it is up to the judge to divide the marital assets between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Your VA disability benefits are not considered an asset for divorce purposes, even if you were married at the time of your service. The court treats these benefits differently than military retirement benefits, which may be considered marital property by most courts.

Taxes

You are not required to pay taxes on your VA disability benefits. That differentiates VA benefits from other military benefits, such as the housing allowance. While the housing allowance is also not taxable, it can be considered an asset in your divorce case. It is important to note that the judge in your divorce case looks at your entire financial picture when determining child support obligations. If you receive a high amount of benefits that are not taxable or considered assets, the court might grant more child support than usual.

Garnishment

Garnishment is a court order that requires a third party to seize some of your money or property in order to satisfy a debt. In most cases, creditors and tax entities may not garnish your VA benefits to satisfy unpaid taxes or civil judgments. However, because VA disability benefits are intended to support both you and your dependents, it is possible you may face a garnishment for your VA benefits in order to satisfy unpaid child support or alimony obligations.

There is a big exception to this garnishment rule, however. Your VA disability benefits are only at risk if you waive part of your military retirement pay to get your disability benefits. Only the amount of disability benefits you received in place of your taxable retirement benefits are subject to garnishment—all other disability benefits are not.

Even though most VA disability benefits are typically not used when calculating your income, it is important to understand the exceptions of child support and alimony to that general rule. In some cases, your benefits can make a major impact on your support obligations.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.