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Issues Unique To Military Divorce

Despite all the differences between military and civilian life, there is in reality very little difference between military and civilian divorce. While the laws followed will differ slightly, there is a lot of overlap in the procedures; the only issue is the nature of the benefits being divided, such as pensions, retirement pay, health care and base privileges. It can get complex, however, so having a knowledgeable attorney available can help significantly.

Pension Regulations

The main bone of contention in many military divorces is dividing military pensions and retirement pay. There are two ways in which a portion of a military pension may be divided under law. The first is via the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which operates under the 10/10 rule – in other words, to qualify for a direct payment from your ex-spouse’s military retirement, you must have been married at least 10 years, with at least 10 of those years overlapping with their military service. For example, a wife married for 25 years to a husband who spent 15 of those years in the military would be entitled to a share of his pension or other retirement pay, while a wife married for 25 years to a husband who served less than 10 years in the military before his retirement would not be entitled to anything from DFAS.

The other way, however, that a spouse may claim a portion of their ex’s military retirement is to do so through regular state law, in a divorce decree. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA, 10 U.S.C. sec. 1408)), military pay may be classified as a marital asset, rather than as income, and as such, it can be divided just like any other asset if the situation is appropriate. State law generally limits the amount to 50 percent of disposable retirement pay, but it can rise to 65 percent if child support comes out of the servicemember’s pension.

Insurance & Other Privileges

The other common questions in military divorce usually have to deal with tangential issues such as insurance benefits, medical care, and base privileges. While these may seem inconsequential to some, to others the right to exercise such privileges is critical. In particular, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is a benefit that many spouses count on, only to find that they are no longer the beneficiary after a divorce. The SBP is an annuity designed to provide the spouse (or former spouse) and children of a military retiree with income in the event of the servicemember’s passing. Many retirees do designate their spouse as the beneficiary, but in the event of a divorce, this may change, because the annuity may only go to one person. If the military member remarries, the former spouse may get nothing unless it is previously stipulated that they will, and that specific steps are taken within one year after entry of the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

Other assets that may be at issue include eligibility for TRICARE, which is a military health benefit plan for all uniformed services, as well as base privileges (for conveniences such as the commissary or exchange). The latter can especially make a difference to a spouse who is deployed with their family; if a spouse loses their base privileges after divorce, they may not be able to purchase certain things or otherwise have the needs of the family effectively managed. These privileges are governed by military rules, but in some situations an alternative arrangement can be worked out.

Contact A Hollywood Attorney

Because these and other issues are unique to military families, the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney can make a difference.  The Hollywood military divorce firm of Steven A. Mason, P.A. knows the advantages and disadvantages of military life, and will work hard to ensure that your family’s situation is handled in the best way possible. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.

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