Rose v. Rose - 481 U.S. 619 (1987)
U.S. Supreme Court
Rose v. Rose, 481 U.S. 619 (1987)
Rose v. RoseNo. 85-1206
Argued March 4, 1987
Decided May 18, 1987 481 U.S. 619
Appellant, a totally disabled veteran whose main source of income is federal veterans'
benefits, was held in contempt by the state trial court for failure to pay child support, the
amount of which had been fixed by the court after considering appellant's benefits
to be income under a Tennessee statute. The State Court of Appeals affirmed,
rejecting appellant's contention that the Veterans' Administration (VA) has
exclusive jurisdiction to specify payments of child support from the disability
benefits it provides. The court determined that Congress intended disability
benefits to support the beneficiary and his dependents, and held that the trial court's
order directing appellant to pay a portion of those benefits as child support
or be held in contempt did not undermine a substantial federal interest.
The family court is run by the state you're in.
They follow the law that is in effect in your state. Most states require that a financial
statement be completed for the court to review.
Each state says that "income" must be accurately listed so that the court
understands the financial status of each party.
How "income" is defined may vary from state to state. Most use language like
"total income from all sources" or something similar.
In most of these on-line references you'll see that the state lists "disability income"
or similar language. The judge wants to know how much your overall, total income is.
The question we're asked on an near daily basis
is "Do I have to pay child support or alimony with my VA disability money?
I'm told that the law protects me from that."
The answer is almost always, "Yes, your VA disability money will be used
by the family court to determine your obligation to pay child support or alimony."
It is viewed as part of your total income and the law allows it to be used in every state.
The court can not garnish the money from the VA. But once you have it in your
checking account, the court can order you to pay the amount they have determined to
be your obligation. If you don't, you may be held in contempt of court and you may go to jail.
Is this fair? I can't answer that. I don't usually try to address whether or
not it's a fair system. I just report to you the reality of what's happening in our
veterans world and this is the reality we face.
If you don't pay, the obligee (the custodial parent or the spouse owed alimony)
may ask VA to apportion your VA disability payment. While this isn't called
garnishment, it works the same way. If you are behind on payments,
VA will determine what they believe you can afford and send it to the obligee.
Once apportionment starts, you will face a steep hill in challenging it to get away from it.
Your only real option is in the family court. You have the right (this varies
state to state) to ask the family court judge to lower your obligation.
VA Benefits for Sleep Apnea
as a service
connection to PTSD
Brett Valette, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Do not ever try to hide or disguise income.
Your credibility counts for a lot in a family court. If the judge discovers that you aren't reporting all of your income, including your VA disability income, that won't go well for you.
Don't argue the law with the judge. The family court judge has heard it all.
Garnishment & Apportionment are very serious matters.
Your VA disability payment can't be garnished under most circumstances.
It can be "apportioned".
The dependent who is owed money by the order of a family court is allowed
to seek apportionment through the VA. The dependent must complete the VBA Form 21-0788.
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