THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LOUDOUN COUNTY Jeanette A. Irby, Judge
J. Tucker (William D. Wilkinson; Katherine Martell; LexFori,
PLLC; First Point Law Group, P.C., on briefs), for appellant.
C. Jacob for appellee.
Present: Judges Petty, Malveaux and Senior Judge Annunziata
Argued at Alexandria, Virginia
ROSEMARIE ANNUNZIATA, JUDGE
Adel Elias Alwan (father), invokes the United States
Supremacy Clause and federal pre-emption doctrine to appeal
the circuit court's findings that his "veterans'
disability benefits could be considered in the calculation of
his child support obligations" and the award of
attorney's fees made to Aylin Tunc Alwan (mother). We
find no error and affirm the decision of the circuit court.
parties married in February 2010, and two children were born
of the marriage. On June 2, 2017, the circuit court entered a
final decree of divorce, awarding mother sole legal and
physical custody of the minor children and establishing a
visitation schedule for father. The circuit court ordered
father to pay spousal support and child support to mother.
2017 and early 2018, the parties filed several motions
regarding visitation, child care, support, and other related
matters, as well as a petition for rule to show cause. On
March 23, 2018, each party filed motions regarding support.
Father filed pro se a motion to modify child support
and spousal support, stating he had served in the military
from July 23, 2007, through July 22, 2011, and was found to
be totally and permanently disabled, not due solely to his
service-connected disabilities, however. Mother filed a
motion to increase spousal and child support, alleging father
earned more income since the entry of the final decree of
divorce and his debts had been discharged in bankruptcy.
Mother also sought an award of attorney's fees.
August 31, 2018, the parties appeared before the circuit
court to be heard on the competing motions to modify
visitation and support. After hearing father's evidence,
the circuit court granted mother's motion to strike the
custody matters but amended father's visitation to
reflect his new work schedule. Then, the circuit court heard
evidence regarding support.
testified that he had worked for a company overseas for 105
days and earned approximately $50, 000 since the entry of the
final decree of divorce. At the time of the hearing, father
worked for a different company and earned $52, 000 per year.
In addition, father clarified that he was not eligible for
military retirement, but as of March 5, 2018, father received
$3, 627.58 per month in veterans' disability benefits,
which he contended should not be included in his income to
calculate his child and spousal support obligations. Father
had no debts since he had filed for bankruptcy and his
outstanding debts had been discharged. Thus, his financial
obligations only included rent, a car payment, support
arrearages, and payments on a prior award of attorney's
testified that at the time of the hearing, she was not
working and lived in her parents' basement with her
children. Every other week, she received a $250 check from
her parents' hair salon to help with her expenses. She
stated her parents took out a loan for her attorney's
fees, and she reimbursed them when she had funds available.
Mother confirmed that from January 4, 2018, through August
28, 2018, her attorney's fees and costs totaled $30,
closing arguments, the circuit court found that father
received veterans' disability payments and "rejected
as meritless" father's argument that his
veterans' disability benefits could not be considered
income for child support purposes. Based on the evidence, the
circuit court increased father's child support
obligation, but did not modify spousal support. In using
father's disability benefits to determine his support
obligations, the circuit court did not direct father to use
those benefits to pay his support obligations and stated that
father was "free to use whatever funds he chose to pay
for his support obligations."
circuit court further ordered father to pay $20, 331.40
toward mother's attorney's fees and costs, noting the
extensive amount of research that was necessary to address
father's arguments, on the ground they proved to be
without merit and in light of "the amount of money that
[mother] had to spend on the issue." The circuit court
did not consider father's veterans' disability
payments in determining his ability to pay attorney's
fees, but weighed father's lack of debt and his refusal
to pay the children's medical expenses against his
decision to purchase an engagement ring for his
fiancée. The circuit court again advised father that
he could use "whatever source of funds [he] want[ed] to
use to pay [his] obligations."
October 5, 2018, the circuit court entered a final order