Military divorces can be complex and challenging, especially when it comes to the division of assets and benefits. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal law that regulates the treatment of military pensions and other benefits in divorce cases involving service members.
Before the USFSPA, state courts lacked the authority to treat military pensions as marital property or award a portion of the pension to the non-military spouse. The USFSPA was designed in 1982 to rectify this issue and help ensure a fair and equitable distribution of military retirement benefits.
Division of military retirement benefits
Under the USFSPA, state courts have the authority to treat military retirement pay as marital property subject to division upon divorce. This means the non-military spouse may be entitled to a portion of the service member’s pension. The court determines the division based on state laws, which can vary.
Some states follow the community property approach, while others adhere to the equitable distribution principle. Georgia divorce laws adhere to equitable distribution; thus, both spouses have an equitable interest in all property acquired during the couple’s marriage.
It’s important to note that the USFSPA does not automatically entitle the non-military spouse to a share of the pension. The court must make a specific order, known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), to divide the military retirement pay. The QDRO is submitted to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which administers military pay, for implementation.
The benefit relevant in military divorce
The USFSPA allows the former spouse to retain certain military benefits, such as commissary and exchange privileges, even after the divorce. To qualify, the marriage must have lasted at least 20 years, with at least 20 years of creditable military service overlapping the marriage.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) significantly influences military divorces by providing guidelines for dividing military retirement pay and other benefits. Understanding the implications of the USFSPA is crucial for service members and their spouses who are navigating the divorce process.