Bill Seeks to Remove Some Income from Consideration for Alimony

When a couple divorces, one of the parties may be placed in a difficult financial situation due to their lack of earning capacity. To prevent them from being impacted more significantly than a higher-earning spouse, spousal support can be awarded from the assets of the spouse with higher earning capacity. The assets included in determining such earning capacity can include many different sources, although some states are seeking to limit these available sources.

A legislative bill has been proposed in a nearby state that would prevent veterans' disability payments from being taken into account when determining spousal support awards. Current law states that courts must take into account all sources of income when making such a determination, but the bill is seeking an exemption for these payments. Proponents of the bill say that veterans' disability payments are meant as compensation for service to the country and it is unfair to consider them income for the purposes of divorce and spousal support.

During divorce proceedings, a court has the ability to grant alimony to one of the parties. It is meant to minimize any negative economic effects of a divorce to a low or non-earning spouse by providing them with a steady stream of income. Alimony is the payment from the assets of one spouse for the support of the other. The assets of the paying spouse include earnings, marital property and separate property. Courts are given broad discretion in the awarding of spousal support and are provided with numerous factors to base it on including the standard of living and duration of the marriage and the financial assets of both spouses, among many others. In the case above, veterans' disability payments are included in the determination of the paying spouse's financial assets, but the proposed bill would seek to remove them from such determination.

Courts have many determinations to make in divorce cases, and the awarding of alimony may grant them with the most latitude. Both parties to a divorce should be aware of their rights and responsibilities regarding spousal support, whether they are ordered to pay or they will receive alimony payments.

Source: Charleston Gazette, "Bill would shield veterans' disability pay in divorce," Mar. 15, 2013

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