U.S. Supreme Court to rule in divorce matter re insurance proceeds

Last updated on April 8, 2021

There can certainly be many and, to some people, non-obvious things to think about during the divorce process. Attend to this, tick off that, make a change here, check that box there. There can be matters to focus upon from property division and support issues to visitation and a host of other matters.

Some of those things might seem insignificant or even trivial at the time, but the practiced eye of an experienced divorce attorney can truly tell whether they are important or not. In addition, proven counsel will help ensure that a client sees, considers and makes a reasoned determination on every factor that is likely to be of material importance in a divorce. Noting and taking action on key divorce points eliminates ambiguity and possible conflicts post-divorce.

That point is amply demonstrated by a case the United States Supreme Court is currently considering and will likely decide in the upcoming months. The matter most centrally involves the clash of federal and state law.

A man — now deceased — designated his wife as his beneficiary under a federal insurance program prior to their divorce and his remarriage. He subsequently died, with the first wife collecting under the policy.

The second wife sued for the money in Virginia, with that state’s Supreme Court ultimately ruling that, because the former spouse was the named beneficiary, she was in fact entitled to the money.

But then again, maybe not. Because the Virginia justices held that the state’s law favoring a current spouse was preempted by federal law stating that a named beneficiary under a policy is entitled to collect, the nation’s highest court is now examining the matter to determine what law applies.

Justices voiced concern over the question whether Congress ever intended to enter into divorce matters when it enacted the law on beneficiaries.

Source: Huffington Post, “Divorce laws: Supreme Court deciding whether ex- or current wife should get divorce money,” April 22, 2013

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