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SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE FOR MILITARY DIVORCE AT ISSUE

There are many members of the military in Washington. Like those in other states, our military citizens face many tough situations, including deployments and separations from their families. These issues can lead to a divorce in some cases. When they do, just like their civilian counterparts, military members may face negotiations for spousal maintenance depending on all the facts and circumstances involving the marriage.

As a result of their military service, many Washington residents have suffered debilitating injuries. These injuries may lead to payments from the military in the form of disability benefits. The range of disabilities can run from a small amount to a soldier becoming totally disabled. In addition, the disability payments may affect the amount of retirement pay that a service member receives after their service is complete.

In Washington, as in most states, when a disabled military member gets a divorce, the income that they receive from disability payments is counted in the calculation for spousal maintenance. This is due, in part, to the determination that the intent of the payments is not only to compensate a soldier for their injuries but also to address the sacrifice made by a military family. However, one soldier is questioning this long-standing policy of many states.

The disabled soldier suffered a total disability as a result of his military service. At the time of his divorce from his wife in 2010, the court awarded her spousal maintenance payments based on his total income, including his disability benefit. However, the soldier argues that federal law requires that states exclude such benefits from the calculations for spousal maintenance. The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet accepted the case for review, but if they do and ultimately agree with the disabled soldier's claim, military divorces and spousal maintenance could change significantly in the future.

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