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Military laws controlling the division of military benefits

Much like civilians, service members partake in the joyous event of matrimony. While the married life can have its ups and downs, for those in the military, maintaining a lasting marriage can be challenging at times. The military lifestyle and lengthy deployments can be taxing for some spouses, giving reason for divorce. While a military divorce contains much of the same issues as civilian divorces, there are several other factors to consider during a military divorce.

Military laws control how military benefits are divided, and the military life of a service member can insert added complications to the dissolution process. It is important to note that these laws and factors are unique to military divorces even though these issues in general occur during both military and civilian divorces.

Military laws control how military pay, benefits and retirement pay are divided among spouses. Specifically, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, or the USFSPA, recognizes the right for a state court to distribute military retired pay to a former spouse. While this Act does not automatically award a portion of a military member's retired pay or pension, it does provide a method to enforce payment when such benefits are awarded in court.

Some former spouses of military members might be under the impression that they are not eligible to receive any retirement pay due to the 10/10 rule of the USFSPA, claiming that the couple must have been married for at least 10 years. This is not true.

The 10/10 rule states that a former spouse is eligible to receive his or her court-ordered portion of the divided military retirement pay directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services if the couple was married for 10 years or more and the service member served at least 10 years. The 10/10 rule only affects who sends the former spouse a check, not whether he or she is eligible to receive this benefit.

Much like this rule, factors and laws included in a military divorce can often complicate the process. In general, a military divorce is complex. Whether you are working through property division, military benefits or child custody, it is important to understand your rights and how best to resolve any divorce issues.

Source:, "How Divorce Can Affect Your Military Pay," Kristi Muse, Aug. 19, 2016

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