The Hawkins Law Firm
256.571.2829

408-A Gunter Avenue
Guntersville, AL 35976

256.799.0224

7027 Old Madison Pike, NW Suite 108
Huntsville, AL 35806

256.586.4510

942 N. Main Street
Arab, AL 35016

United States Supreme Court Asked to Consider Whether Veterans’ Benefits Should Be Subject to Spousal Support Claims

In Alabama, as in most states across the country, divorce courts may use the value of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) disability benefits when determining an appropriate spousal support (or alimony) arrangement. Thus, if a disabled veteran receives VA benefits each month, a portion of that amount may be awarded to a former spouse in need of support during or after a divorce. Currently, only Arizona, Texas, and Vermont have passed laws that may shield VA benefits from spousal support calculations in certain situations.

This may change if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case of an Oregon veteran who in May petitioned the Court to reconsider the fairness of allowing VA disability compensation to go towards alimony awards. As reported by Starts and Stripes, an independent news and information source for the U.S. military community, Peter James Barclay, whose post-traumatic stress disorder prevents him from working, takes issue with a divorce court order requiring him pay his former spouse $1,000 of the $4,400 he receives every month in total disability benefits, his only income.

In his petition, Mr. Barclay (through his attorney) asserts that a federal law, Title 38 U.S. Code, Section 5301(a), making VA disability benefits immune “from taxation, claims of creditors, attachment, levy, and seizure” should also bar VA benefits from being subject to spousal support calculations. The petition also asks the Court to consider whether the same federal law prevents VA benefits from being divided as part of a couple’s communal property or marital assets.

If Mr. Barclay is successful, the result will affect many former spouses of disabled veterans who have been receiving support from VA compensation. Most courts allow VA benefits to be used when determining spousal support based on a 1987 Supreme Court decision, Rose v. Rose, which held that VA benefit pay is meant to compensate veterans and their families. Since that decision, however, the Court has protected at least one veteran’s VA benefits from being treated as marital property, which leans at least slightly in favor of Barclay’s argument.

Seek Advice about Spousal Support from an Experienced Alabama Divorce Attorney

If you are considering divorce, it is important to talk to an experienced family law attorney about all of the legal issues that accompany divorce, including spousal support. In northern and central Alabama, please contact family lawyer Lana Hawkins of Hawkins Law, LLC. Ms. Hawkins has helped many clients achieve fair and favorable support arrangements that also reflect the most beneficial situation available to them according to current interpretations of family law.

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