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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

What does the law say about the division of military pensions?

Without question, one of the most valuable benefits extended to the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to serving in our nation's armed forces is the awarding of a full pension upon retirement.

Perhaps not surprisingly, these military pensions have the potential to become a contentious issue in the event of a divorce between service members and civilian spouses, as both sides may be somewhat unclear as to what their rights and options are in relation to this undoubtedly valuable asset.

Indeed, the service member who spent so many years in uniform, rising in rank, and putting in the time and energy may feel as if the military pension belongs to them and them alone. Their civilian spouses, however, may feel as if they are entitled to a portion of this money given the sacrifices and support they have provided to their military spouse over many years.

In recognition of this reality, today's post, the first in a series, will start providing some basic legal background concerning the division of military pensions under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act.

The USFSPA was passed by Congress back in 1982 out of a recognition that the former spouses of longtime servicemembers were in need of some type of financial protection in the event of a divorce.

To that end, the law dictates the following:

  • States can designate military disposable retired pay -- i.e., the monthly pension payment to a servicemember minus various deductions -- as marital property subject to division.
  • Qualifying civilian spouses awarded a portion of disposable retired pay can receive direct payment via the Defense Finance and Accounting Service or another retired pay center.

We will continue to examine this topic in future posts. In the meantime, those parties considering a military divorce should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about the law, their rights and their options.

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