Can a Custodial Parent Collect a Portion of VA Disability & Child Support?
By Wayne Thomas
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When a child lives primarily with one parent after divorce, child support orders help ensure that both parents contribute a fair share financially to support the child. To determine a support amount, states can factor in the income of one or both parents. If you were awarded custody of your child in the divorce and expect to receive veteran's disability benefits, the amount you draw from the government could affect the amount of child support that the court will order the other parent to pay.
Veteran's disability benefits are payments made to a former service member as compensation for an injury or disease that occurred while he was in the military. You can request the benefits by filing an application with the U.S. Department of Government Affairs. The agency sets the amount of benefits you can receive based on the severity of your disability. If you have children, this can be a basis for the award of additional benefits.
Read More: Can VA Disability Compensation Be Used to Calculate Child Support or Income?
Benefits Considered Income
If you are deemed eligible for VA benefits and begin receiving payments, these amounts may play a role in the child support portion of your divorce. This is because, unlike public assistance benefits, such as food stamps and welfare checks, most states treat VA benefits as income for the purpose of determining an appropriate amount of child support that the parent without custody, referred to as the noncustodial parent, should pay.
Income Shares States
The majority of states look at the incomes of both parents in calculating support. As the custodial parent, the amount you receive depends largely on the extent of your benefits -- and any other income you receive -- relative to the income earned by your former spouse. For example, when your state follows the "income shares model" for determining support, if you and the other parent have a combined income of $5,000 per month, the corresponding basic child support amount might be $1000 per month. To find each parent’s percentage share of that $1,000 support amount, you divide each parent’s income by the total combined income. If you receive $2,000 per month in disability and that is your only income, because the other parent earns the remaining $3,000 per month, he would be responsible for 60 percent of the child support amount, or $600 per month. By contrast, if your incomes were reversed, the other parent would only be responsible for 40 percent of the amount, or $400 per month. For that reason, the amount of income that you get from your VA benefits can be an important factor in states that calculate support using the income shares model.
Percentage of Income
If you live in a state where only the noncustodial parent's income is taken into consideration, the fact that you receive VA benefits is not as important. In these states, the court arrives at the initial support amount through a flat or variable percentage of the other parent's income, determined by the number of children you have. However, while child support calculations are presumed to be correct, states often allow a judge to make adjustments. If your income is vastly greater than the other parent's, for instance, or if he was given some overnights with the children under the custody order, a court could use its discretion and choose to reduce the amount of support it orders.
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."