Conrad v. Conrad
In Conrad v. Conrad, 216 W. Va. 696, 216 W. Va. 696, 612 S.E.2d 772 (2005), the Court found that the long term disability benefits were marital property.
This determination was based, in large part, on the fact that the parties had a specific conversation about the need to secure their future.
Toward that end, the parties in Conrad decided jointly to apply for such benefits and paid the premiums on a monthly basis for thirty years.
In Conrad, the receipt of long-term disability benefits began prior to the parties' separation and was secured through premiums paid during the marriage from marital funds.
The Court reasoned that "the majority of courts contemplating the proper classification of disability benefits have adopted an approach which focuses on the underlying purpose of the specific disability benefits at issue. Thus, benefits which actually compensate for disability are classified as separate property because they are personal to the spouse who receives them. However, where justified by the particular facts of the case, courts adopting this approach have separated the benefits into a retirement component and a true disability component, classifying the retirement component as marital property and the disability component as separate property."
The Court stated that there is no "hard and fast rule that all disability benefits are, or are not, marital property subject to distribution. . . . Rather, the . . . determination must be made on a case-by-case basis according to the particular facts, giving careful consideration to the entire marital property and keeping an eye toward a just and equitable distribution." Id.