Divorce & Veterans Disability Pension

By Melanie Jo Triebel

When couples consider divorce, one of the first questions that usually arises is who will get what. Couples are often confused about such matters as pensions, disability pay, Social Security benefits, and other forms of income which may have accrued during the marriage but will continue to be paid after the divorce is final. When it comes to veterans disability pay, some aspects of what happens during divorce are crystal clear nationwide. Others, however, vary from state to state.

Overview

Veterans disability pensions, much like Social Security disability benefits, are designed to compensate individuals who are disabled and thus can no longer work. However, veterans disability pensions are only for those who served in the U.S. military. Veterans who receive disability pension money are entitled to receive additional amounts each month if they are married, but this entitlement ends in the event of divorce.

The Impact of State Law

While federal law governs a veteran's eligibility for a disability pension, as well as the amount of the pension, state law varies with regard to what happens to that pension in the event of a divorce. While federal law governs the treatment of the disability pay during the division of the marital estate, state law governs how a veteran's disability pay affects orders for spousal support.

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Dividing the Pension Between Spouses

A veteran's disability pension is not considered a marital asset which can be divided upon divorce. In fact, Federal law expressly prohibits state courts from dividing veterans disability pension as part of the divorce decree. Thus, a state divorce court cannot decide that a portion of each month's disability pay belongs to the non-veteran divorcing spouse, or otherwise treat the disability pay as a marital asset or community property.

Considering the Pension When Awarding Support

Many people mistakenly believe that because veterans disability pay cannot be directly awarded to a divorcing spouse, it also cannot be considered when awarding or setting the amount of spousal support. A very few states, such as Arizona, Texas and Vermont, prohibit judges from using this income in setting spousal support. Most states, however, allow or require a judge to consider all sources of income when determining spousal support -- including veterans disability pay. This is true even if the disability pay is the only income the veteran has that can be used to comply with the order of spousal support.

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Arizona Divorce Law Regarding Disability Pay
 

References

Related articles

Disability in a Military Divorce

If a servicemember becomes disabled due to an injury related to his service, he may receive payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs that add to his military compensation, sometimes reducing his retirement pay in the process. These disability payments are treated differently than retirement payments -- and state divorce courts have limited authority to give a portion of the disability funds to the military member’s ex-spouse.

Michigan Laws on Alimony, Pensions & Social Security

Dividing property is an important component of every Michigan divorce. It is the job of the court to ensure that neither of you is left in an unfair financial position. The judge has the authority to award alimony payments, referred to as spousal support in Michigan, to one of you. This award might include a portion of the other spouse's retirement pension. Special rules apply to Social Security benefits, which may play an indirect role in calculating support in Michigan.

Disabled Veterans & Child Support in California

Veterans injured in the service of their country are afforded financial assistance and protection by the federal government. This includes monthly disability payments to compensate for lost current and future income. The payments are protected from garnishment by most creditors, but California courts include disability amounts as income in determining a veteran's child support obligations.

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