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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Division of benefits in military divorces

Tennessee couples who are part of the military and going through a divorce process might need to negotiate how to divide military retirement benefits in the future. The Supreme Court has ruled on a case that clarifies how military benefits can be divided.

The case involved a military veteran and his ex-wife. During the divorce negotiations, both agreed that the ex-wife would receive 50 percent of the ex-husband's military retirement benefits when he retired, which he did a year after the divorce. Many years later, however, the man filed a claim for disability for a debilitating condition that he believed stemmed from his years in the military. His claim was approved and he began to receive military disability payments. However, due to military regulations, his retirement benefits were reduced by the amount the man was receiving for disability. As a result, both his and his ex-wife's retirement benefits were reduced monthly.

The ex-wife filed a motion asking for the amount that was originally awarded to be paid to her, increasing her assets in the divorce. Both a family court as well as the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in her favor. However, the U.S. Supreme Court then reversed this, saying that the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, while establishing that state courts can treat military retirement benefits as community property to be equally divided, does not include any amount that the U.S. government deducts as a result of a waiver made by a veteran in order to receive disability benefits.

People who are involved in military divorces might have to deal with both state and military regulations, which might complicate the negotiations. They might find the assistance provided by attorneys with experience in these types of family law matters to be helpful.

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