Alimony & Spousal Support

Spouse’s LHWCA Compensation Benefits Can Be Attached For Payment Of Alimony

In the family law, alimony appellate case of Uveges v. Uveges, PICS Case No. 14-1799 (Pa. Super, November 5, 2014) the Honorable Cheryl Lynn Allen, writing on behalf of the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the trial court correctly ordered the attachment of husband’s Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act benefits for the payment of alimony, since wife was not a “creditor” and husband’s alimony obligation was not a “debt” under 33 U.S.C. 916.

Husband’s and wife’s divorce became final on Aug. 1, 2011. The divorce agreement provided that husband would pay wife $2,500 per month as permanent alimony. Wife filed petition to enforce the agreement alleging husband’s failure to make the required alimony payments after Jan. 1, 2012.

The court ordered attachment of husband’s LHWCA monthly benefits and husband’s previous employer filed a petition for special relief claiming that the benefits were exempt from attachment. The court vacated the attachment of benefits order and provided other means of enforcement, including the transfer of real property to the wife.

In 2013, wife filed another motion for contempt and again asked for attachment of husband’s LHWCA benefits. Court concluded that it did have the authority to attach husband’s LHWCA benefits and husband appealed.

On appeal, husband argued that there was no exception to the LHWCA’s anti-alienation clause that would allow wife to attach his benefits to recover alimony. In Parker, the court concluded the anti-attachment clause that applied to Veterans’ Administration benefits did not apply in similar situation since a wife seeking to recover alimony pendent lite was not a “creditor” of her husband because the claim was not based on a debt. The trial court correctly concluded that husband’s LHWCA benefits were remuneration for employment and were available for attachment to provide for support of his dependents and that support money was not money owed to a “creditor” nor was it a “debt.” Case law from other states supported the trial court’s conclusion. Additionally, Pennsylvania precedent recognized that a spouse’s alimony and/or support obligations were not “debts.”

Husbands LHWCA benefits were paid to him pursuant to federal law and since wife was not a “creditor” and husband’s alimony obligation was not a “debt” under 33 U.S.C. 916, the LHWCA benefits could be attached. Trial court order attaching husband’s LHWCA benefits for the payment of alimony affirmed.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 37PLW1105 (November 18, 2014)

Filed Under: Family Law, Alimony Enforcement: Attachment of Benefits

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