September 6, 2005
Case Law Developments: Jurisdiction of Court to Assign Veteren's Disability Payments in Divorce Decree
The Virginia Court of Appeals bars collateral attack of a divorce decree incorporating an agreement to assign veteren's disability benefits.
Winfree v. Winfree, 2005 Va. App. LEXIS 330 (August 30, 2005)
Text of opinion on web at http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opncavtx/2391043.txt
In a property settlement agreement incorporated into a divorce decree, Husband agreed to assign his veteran’s disability benefits to wife. Seven years later, Husband attacks the agreement as void ab initio because federal law prohibits assignment of these benefits, thus depriving the court of subject matter jurisdiction over disposition of those benefits. The Virginia Court of Appeals noted that trial courts are expressly authorized to incorporate settlement agreements into divorce decrees, so that there is subject matter jurisdiction. Even if the agreement contained provisions prohibited by federal law, this would only make the agreement voidable, not void, so that collateral attack would be prohibited.