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What military benefits are available when divorcing a veteran?

There are various factors that can lead to a complicated divorce. For those going through a military divorce, there are often additional and even complex issues to sort through when compared to a civilian dissolution. While state laws govern how New Mexico divorces are handled and how assets and property are divided, federal laws grant state courts the ability to divide military benefits so long as the specific standards of these benefits are met. This is true for spouses divorcing an active military service member or a veteran.

What military benefits are available to a spouse when divorcing a veteran? The division of marital property involves the key issue of whether retirement pay is part of the marital assets and subject to distribution. According to the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, or USFSPA, retirement pay is part of the marital asset pool and thus subject to division. However, this only occurs if the couple was married for at least 10 years and the service member spouse spent at least 10 years in the military.

Health care benefits are also afforded to spouses of service members; however, this is subject to limitations. Former spouses of an active military member can receive health care benefits based on the length of their marriage and the length of the military service of the service member spouse. It should be noted that these benefits terminate if the recipient spouse gets remarried or obtains a job that provides health care.

Lastly, former spouses of military members can obtain base privileges in a military divorce. This means getting access to commissary, theater and other base facilities, but this is limited to those meeting specific conditions. In cases where the couple was married for at least 20 years and the service member spouse spent at least 20 years in the military, the former spouse will receive full commissary and exchange benefits that can be used at any base facilities open to a dependent. On the other hand, if the military spouse only spent 15 years in the military or less than 15 years of the marriage overlapped with military service, no base privileges will be available.

While these are common issues to consider when addressing military benefits in a military divorce, this is not exhaustive of the numerous issues that couples will need to address. Because of that, it is important that both spouses are aware of their rights and options, which could help them make informed decisions.

Source:, "The Benefits for the Wife of a Veteran If Divorced," Roger Thorne, Accessed on Oct. 12, 2015

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