Pennsylvania Ex-Husband’s LHWCA Benefits Subject to Attachment by Former Spouse for Unpaid Alimony

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act disability benefits are subject to attachment by a worker’s former spouse, held a Pennsylvania court yesterday in Uveges v. Uveges, 2014 PA Super 251, 2014 Pa. Super. LEXIS 3954 (Nov. 5, 2014). The ex-husband owed an arrearage of more than $56,000 in alimony but argued, however, that it was Congress’ intent, as promulgated in 33 U.S.C. § 916, that the benefits should go to the disabled worker directly, without any attachment. Both the trial court and the appellate court relied upon Moyle v. Director, Office of Workers’ Comp. Programs, 147 F.2d 1116 (9th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 1999 U.S. LEXIS 2578 (1999), wherein the circuit court said LHWCA disability benefits should be considered “remuneration for employment” and could, therefore, be subject to attachment. 

The Pennsylvania appellate court also noted that case law from other states supported the trial court’s conclusion that the former spouse was not a “creditor” and that support or alimony allegations were not a “debt” under the LHWCA [see, e.g., Cigna Property & Casualty v. Ruiz, 834 So.2d 234, 236 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2002), review denied, 846 So. 2d 1147 (Fla. 2003), cert. denied, 2013 U.S. LEXIS 7728 (2003) (concluding that, under Florida law, a child support obligation was “not a debt”)].

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