divorcing military couple speaking to attorney

What Is the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA)?

Divorce presents a variety of potential complications. When one spouse is in the armed forces, there is an added layer of complexity. With a military spouse, there are things to consider such as whether the non-military spouse will be eligible to continue with commissary and exchange benefits. There are also unique health care benefits issues to address. On top of all of this, there is also the potential eligibility of the non-military spouse to receive a portion of the servicemember spouse’s military retirement pay. To address the unique issue of eligibility of a non-military spouse to receive part of a military spouse’s retirement pay in a divorce, the Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (USFSPA) provides guidance.

Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) Overview

It is important to note that the USFSPA does not automatically entitle a former spouse to receive a portion of the military spouse’s retired pay. If the former non-military spouse was awarded part of the service member’s military retired pay as part of a final divorce decree, the USFSPA makes a provision for how to enforce this part of the divorce decree. It also provides a means of enforcing outstanding child support obligations as well as alimony awards pursuant to the final divorce decree.

The USFSPA grants state courts the authority to divide a service member’s disposable military retirement pay in a divorce. A court may only have this authority, however, if the court has jurisdiction over the service member based on either the residence of the service member (other than that due to military assignment), the service member’s domicile, or due to the fact that the servicemember consented to the court’s jurisdiction.

The USFSPA allows a former spouse to directly receive part of retired pay from the government. If there is a court order, or a property settlement ordered that was ratified or approved by the court, and there is a specific provision in the order that payment must be made from disposable retired pay for child support, alimony, or division of the property when the spouse was married to the servicemember for at least 10 years or more, among other requirements, then direct payment may occur from a military pay center. Should the terms of the court order be satisfied, the retired service member passes away, or the former spouse pass away (whichever occurs first), the direct payment of retired military pay will come to an end.

The USFSPA also allows some former spouses to continue to access health care at military treatment facilities. While the USFSPA provides for all of this, it in no way requires courts to divide military retired pay, it just makes it an available option. Should a court see fit to divide military retired pay, the USFSPA does not provide any type of formula for accomplishing this nor does it place a cap on the percentage of the disposable retired pay a court may award to a non-military spouse.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Are you going through a military divorce, consult with the knowledgeable divorce attorneys at Orlando Family Team. We will not only offer you guidance on your rights, but we will also tirelessly pursue your rights and best interests throughout divorce proceedings. Contact us today.