Spousal Support Order Increasing Community Spouse’s Medicaid Allowance Is Improper

Case summary for Elder Law Answers.The Indiana Court of Appeals finds that the lower court incorrectly ordered spousal support increasing an incapacitated person’s Medicaid funding. In re the Guardianship of Clarence E. Weber, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration v. Weber (Ind. Ct. App., No. 21A-GU-2680, December 20, 2022).

Mary Weber obtained a spousal support order against her husband, Clarence Weber, who was incapacitated and enrolled in Medicaid to cover his nursing home costs. The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 protects the spouses of Medicaid beneficiaries who remain at home by setting aside a minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance. Spouses with court-ordered support receive their total court-ordered payments per the Act, even if the amount exceeds the standard allowance. Indiana Code § 12-15-2-25 likewise allows for greater support for community spouses with court orders.

Following the spousal support ruling, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), which handles Medicaid, motioned to intervene, requesting equitable relief. The lower court accepted the intervention motion but denied relief. Arguing that the spousal support order was incorrect, the FSSA appealed. Mrs. Weber cross-appealed, asserting that the FSSA could not intervene.

On review, the court first turns to the issue of whether the FSSA could intervene in the case. The FSSA had a significant interest in the proceedings, so the trial court did not err in permitting it to intervene. The FSSA had a substantial stake in the case because the support order directly impacts the amount of money it must supply for the care of Mr. Weber. The maintenance ruling increases the amount the FSSA must contribute. Extraordinary circumstances justified the post-judgment intervention, as the decision came from no adversarial process, and the FSSA cannot change the spousal monthly income allowance independent of the court.

The spousal support order was erroneous, the appeals court decides. When she petitioned for spousal support, Mrs. Weber relied on Indiana Code section 31-16-14-1, which states that dependent spouses can obtain maintenance when their partners become incapacitated or neglect them because of habitual drunkenness. Though he was incapacitated, Mr. Weber did not struggle with alcohol. Instead, he had poor mental health with hoarding, paranoia, aggression, and memory loss.

The appeals court concludes that since the FSSA correctly intervened and the spousal support order was improper because Mr. Weber did not regularly abuse alcohol, the FSSA is entitled to equitable relief.

Read the full case here.