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Changes to LHWCA?

A Pennsylvania Superior Court Case was filed early this month that could change the way we interpret the law.

In the case of Betty Uveges VS. Samuel Uveges, an appeal was filed in January 2014, with the intention of attaching the husband’s disability benefits to the alimony payments made to the wife. Mr. Uveges is a recipient of payments due to disability covered under the Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA).

The couple’s divorce was finalized on August 1, 2011 and on February 15, 2012 Ms. Uveges filed a petition to force her ex-husband to make the required alimony payments. A hearing was convened on April 10, 2012, during which Mr. Uveges was found in contempt, issued a bench warrant and provided for the attachment of the monthly benefits.

On May 4, 2012, the Consolidated Coal Company (Consol) at which Mr. Uveges was previously employed, filed a petition for special relief. Consol claimed that benefits given under LHWCA are exempt from attachment.

Many motions were filed and awards entered, and the case continued into 2013.

A hearing was scheduled for December 2, 2013, followed by a review of the briefs. On January 15, 2014, it was concluded that the law does permit an ex-spouse to attach the retirement or disability benefits of the other ex-spouse, who was found in contempt.

The ultimate outcomes of this trial are as follows:

  1. The Court finds that Mr. Uveges owes $56,912.80 for back Alimony payments
  2. The Court awards Ms. Uveges $15,000.00 in total attorney’s fees
  3. $2,000.00 per month shall be deducted from Mr. Uveges’ benefits and disability payments for ongoing alimony and attorney’s fees.
  4. $471.75 and $517.80 shall continuously redirect to (respectively) Mr. Uveges’ arrearages and Ms. Uveges’ attorney’s fees.

The argument continues to rage on between the former husband-and-wife, but the key points of this trail may be summed up in one succinct sentence:

“In sum, because Husband’s LHWCA benefits are paid to him pursuant to federal law, and because Wife is not a ‘creditor’ and Husband’s alimony obligation is not a ‘debt’… the LHWCA benefits may be attached.”

See Also:

Navigable Waters Blog

PA Court Trial Opinion

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