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Receiving or enforcing retired pay in a military divorce

Married couples who are members of the military sometimes encounter marital struggles. When a married military couple in New Mexico or elsewhere decides to dissolve their union, they may face certain challenges that civilian couples do not encounter. Specific laws outline the details of a military divorce and how certain benefits such as military retirement pay is awarded in a court order.

With regard to the payment of retirement pay to a former spouse, section 1408 of Chapter 10 of the U.S. Code details this military divorce factor. This section, which is also known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act or USFSPA, accomplishes two things in the event of a military divorce.

First, the Act recognizes the right of the state court where the divorce is filed to distribute military retirement pay to a former spouse. Second, it provides a method to enforce these court orders for retirement payments through the Department of Defense.

The Act does not automatically entitle a former spouse to a portion of their ex's retirement payments. First, the retirement pay must be considered marital property. Next, it must be awarded in the divorce and the court order must detail the award of a portion of the member's military retirement pay.

Whether a former spouse is seeking to be awarded military benefits or enforcing a court order for payment, it is important to understand the details of the Act that outlines these rights. Those dealing with these issues or other military divorce issues should understand their rights and seek independent advice about their options. This will help them protect their rights while also promoting an amicable divorce decree.

Source:, "10 U.S. Code § 1408 - Payment of retired or retainer pay in compliance with court orders," accessed on Jan. 5, 2015

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