military retirement benefits in a divorce

Will My Divorce Affect My Military Retirement Benefits?

Divorce affects people from all walks of life. Members of our armed forces are no exception. About 3.5 percent of service members are granted a divorce each year. For certain populations within the military, the divorce rate is far higher.

A common question when military service men and women get divorced relates to the status of retirement benefits. Will these benefits be divided with the former spouse, or remain with the military spouse?

Congress addressed this question with the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), a federal law that authorizes states to divide up military retirement benefits in cases of divorce as part of child support, alimony, or as part of the couple’s marital property.

Like all property divisions ordered by the court, the non-military spouse entitled to a part of the retirement benefits may get these payments from the military spouse. The coercive power of the courts — including court orders, garnishments of wages and bank accounts, and attachment of property — may be used to get the court-ordered payments.

If, however, the marriage overlapped with more than ten years of the service member’s military service, then the non-military spouse may receive the payments directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), part of the U.S. Department of Defense.

If you are facing divorce proceedings with your spouse and one of you is entitled to military retirement benefits, it is important to contact a family law attorney at our office. We have experience in military divorces and can help protect your interests and get your new life on track.