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Social Security & Alimony


It isn’t typical for an alimony case to be associated with the U.S Supreme Court, however, in one case from the state of Oregon this is exactly what happened. The dispute between spouses over alimony from Linn County, Oregon in 2009 finally came to a conclusion after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case entirely.

The case involved a spouse who was disputing the fact that he had to pay alimony of any kind, even though he was ordered to do so under the divorce statutes of the state of Oregon. The husband decreed that he couldn’t pay alimony as his only means of income came from Social Security benefits.

Many things can complicate the finalization of any divorce, especially in the areas of child support or spousal support. Even if the spouses generally agree on issues of property division, child support, or spousal support, the process is no easy task.  More often, there is some disagreement over issues, such as one spouse’s obligation to pay or how the division of marital debt should be accomplished.

In this particular case, both the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which involved the husband’s obligation to pay alimony. The husband, whose only income is provided by disability benefits from the Social Security and Veterans Administrations, argued his VA disability benefits cannot be used to determine spousal support obligations because such payments are solely intended for the welfare of the veteran. He was technically true in his argument, but the family law court trumped this rule in favor of the wife in question.


The husband was ordered to pay $1,000 per month in alimony to his ex-wife based on the combined total of his SSDI and VA benefits. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (FSPA) specifically states benefits for veterans are subject to divorce judgments; meaning whatever ruling the divorce court made would overrule all previous rulings or acts put into place. This federal law was passed in response to a Supreme Court holding in 1981 that protected military retirement funds from spousal support awards.

None of the appellate courts apparently found legal merit in the husband’s argument that the FSPA was not intended to be applied to disability benefits for veterans’ spouses.

Fighting his way all the way past multiple failed attempts, the husband finally took  his case to the U.S. Supreme court, where the case was thrown out. The husband was ordered to pay his alimony and in turn lost money through legal fees and court fees in order to have his case turned away again.

Being Amicable Pays Dividends
Resolving financial matters is a vital part of the divorce process, as both spouses have a vital interest in securing an independent future and maintaining their lifestyles to the best extent possible. This being said, however, fighting as far as the U.S Supreme Court, after failed attempts in smaller court, is just a waste of time. Laws are set in place to look out for the best interest of children and to financially support spouses after the dissolution is finalized. Moral of the story: Being amicable, making a plan, and agreeing, always works best.

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