Many ex-spouses of former military members recognize the acronym USFSPA (short for the Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act) but do not fully understand its meaning. The federal legislation addresses common concerns regarding eligibility for retirement pay and benefits after divorce, establishing standards for medical care and retirement pay.
As the former spouse of a retired military member, you’ll benefit greatly from a thorough understanding of the terms of USFSPA, as outlined below:
Types of Military Retirees
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act recognizes two main types of former military members: those who retired due to injury and those who retired based on length of service.
Military members who serve honorably are entitled to retirement pay. Veterans with disabilities related to their service receive a separate benefit known as VA disability. Still others may be entitled to combat-related special compensation. Eligible service members must select one of the aforementioned options—they cannot receive all three.
What Share of Military Pensions Is Divided?
Courts can only divide the marital portion of the pension or anything earned while the couple was married. Anything earned before marriage or after separation is nondivisible. Furthermore, federal law mandates the division of no more than half of the pension. Beyond this, it can be difficult to predict the amount a former spouse will receive through pension division.
How Is Military Retired Pay Disbursed?
Approved retired military pay from USFSPA can be disbursed through the military member or directly through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). Additionally, child support or alimony can sometimes be taken straight from the military spouse’s retirement pay. No more than 65 percent of retired pay can be garnished for purposes of paying alimony or child support.
To receive retirement pay directly through DFAS, the former spouse must qualify under the ten-year test. This mandates that the couple was married for ten years, and that the military member served for at least a decade. Those who qualify based on the ten-year rule must seek approval for direct pay via court order. Upon receiving this order, the former spouse receives monthly checks from DFAS.