Military Disability Benefits: Up For Grabs in Divorce, or Not?

Oregon Husband and Wife are married and have a child together.

Husband serves in the military for approximately ten years. During his service, Husband sustains both serious physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As a result, both the US Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration classify Husband as disabled. Accordingly, Husband is awarded military disability benefits as well as social security disability benefits.

Possibly because of the injuries he suffered in the military – and their substantial impact on his income, Husband and Wife divorce.

In the divorce, Wife is awarded alimony and spousal support … based upon Husband’s military disability benefits (as well as his social security disability benefits) being treated as income available for support.

The family law in many states, including Florida, specifically allows divorce courts to do this.

Federal law, especially recent changes, may be interpreted as prohibiting this though.

Federal statutes specifically make veterans benefits non-transferrable and exempt from attachment via legal proceedings. But alimony and spousal support in particular are not directly addressed.

Older federal case law approves application of military disability benefits for alimony and spousal support – but are less permissive of dividing military benefits as part of marital property division.

And so Husband has appealed the family court alimony rulings at the trial in his divorce case up through Oregon’s state appellate courts and, now, to the US Supreme Court. He awaits word on whether the US Supreme Court will hear the case.

A ruling by the US Supreme Court could impact many military veterans across the nation, and case and/or statutory law in many states – and potentially trigger many family court modification proceedings across the nation.