Friday, April 21, 2006

Case Law Development: Social Security Benefits as a Factor in Property Division

The Supreme Court of Maine reviews the role of social security benefits in divorce proceedings in a clear and thorough opinion.  The court reversed a trial court’s award of marital property to Wife to offset a portion of an accountant's estimate of the present value of Husband's expected Social Security benefits. The court outlined the basis for the federal statutory prohibitions on treating social security benefits as marital property.  It concluded that under those principles and US Supreme Court precedent in Hisquierdo v. Hisquierdo, 439 U.S. 572 (1979) marital property may not be used as an offset to compensate one spouse for the anticipated social security benefits to be received by the other spouse.  The court then reviewed the split among the states regarding whether social security benefits may be considered as a factor in the equitable division of marital property. The court agreed with the majority of states that allow consideration of a party's anticipated Social Security benefits as a factor among others, when dividing marital property.  A dissent would have rejected this use of social security benefits as well.

Depot v. Depot, 2006 ME 25; 2006 Me. LEXIS 33 (March 29, 2006)
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