Dispensation of Military Pension After Divorce : Community Property or Not

Generally, the court of the state in which a person lives decides how pensions and other financial assets are dispersed when a civilian couple divorces. When it comes to military retirement pay and divorce, most of the time the same principle applies. The following will provide some insight into the way pensions are divided in military cases as well as looking into the laws that define this disbursal.


Pittsfield, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/04/2012 -- Many years ago, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) to offer ex-spouses of servicemen and –women financial benefits once a divorce was granted. Basically, the Act states that former spouses of military members are entitled to a portion of that service member’s retirement pay. Many of the people affected by this Act mistakenly took it to mean that every former spouse would receive some military retirement pay after divorce. This is not the case, however. The Act just means that the state court can consider military pensions community property and can divide it as such. The actual division is based on the laws of the state. The USFSPA also allows the military to pay retirement benefits to the ex-spouse directly if the couple was married for more than 10 years with more than 10 years of overlapping military service.

Determining How Military Retirement Pay is Dispersed

Before the Act was passed, former military spouses got no financial benefits at all after becoming divorced, nor did they retain PX and commissary privileges or health insurance. Now the law guarantees that military retirement pay and divorce must be fairly assessed by a judge. Even if the marriage did not last more than 10 years and did not have more than 10 years of overlapping service, a state court can decree that a former spouse receives a portion of a service person’s pension. The difference here would be that the military would not pay it directly to the ex-spouse; it would go to the military member, who would then have to give it to the former spouse or face contempt of court charges.

Another financial issue that former military spouses have to deal with is that of child support. While the military has regulations that require a service member to provide “accurate support” to family members, it has absolutely no legal authority to “force” the soldier or sailor to actually make the payments. The military will punish a non-support-paying service member, but it must do so quietly due to the Privacy Act of 1974. This makes it seem to ex-wives and –husbands that the military doesn’t care if a soldier does not support his or her family, which is untrue.

About Legal-Yogi, an online purveyor of legal information, is located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and more information on this topic and is happy to share it with others.