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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Double Dipping

Term Definition Double Dipping - a term used to describe the alleged unfairness that results when a spouse receives property in equitable distribution that is also counted as a source of income for calculating alimony or support.
Application in Divorce Also known as "double counting," "double dipping" frequently surfaces when a court makes an alimony award, or when one spouse files a motion to reduce his or her maintenance. While "double dipping" disputes often center on pensions, in recent years such disputes have also happened in connection with child support.

At issue is the treatment of an asset as marital property and a source of income. This can happen in property distributions where, for example, one spouse twice benefits from the classification of pension -- "first for a share of equitable distribution, and second for inclusion in [a spouse’s] cash flow determination of an alimony base." Opponents of double dipping contend that it allows the recipient of spousal support to twice go to the well, that is, twice dip into the same asset. On the other side, some argue that alimony concerns the future and marital property concerns the past, and that "income produced by marital assets should not be ignored when gauging the financial position of divorced spouses..."

When the financial situations of the divorced spouses are profoundly different, an absolute prohibition against double dipping creates inequities. As a result, courts, while generally opposing double dipping, have created exceptions and modifications to permit its application in selected cases, chiefly as a source of alimony.

Most courts have not opted to flatly prohibit dual consideration of martial property as asset and as a source of income.

In many jurisdictions, courts hold that when a court rules that a pension in marital property that is subject to distribution, the pension benefits distributed cannot be counted as income for purposes of alimony.

In cases of child support, most courts hold that just because an asset is property "... does not mean that it cannot be considered as income..." In child support, double dipping cannot be argued since "the child never received any property in the equitable distribution award." Moreover, in this situation, courts have held that income includes veterans’ benefits, insurance benefits, workers’ compensation, pensions, annuities, capital gains, lottery and gambling winnings, prizes and awards, "all of which are property interests that may be equitably divided between the spouses."

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