The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is a law enacted by Congress in 1982 to protect certain benefits of former spouses of military service members in certain situations. The Act gives states the right to divide military disposable retired pay as marital property upon divorce if certain criteria are met. If the criteria are met, the former military spouse may be awarded a share of military retired pay, either from the service member or by direct payment from DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and may be eligible for medical care and certain other benefits.
According to the Military OneSource website, The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) gives former military spouses access to five major potential benefits:
Allows state courts to divide disposable military retired pay between the service member and spouse
Allows former spouses to receive a portion of retired pay directly from the government in some circumstances
Grants some former spouses access to health care at military treatment facilities
Grants some former spouses access to military exchanges and commissaries
Grants benefits to some victims of spousal or child abuse
Jurisdiction of the USFSPA
The USFSPA only allows a court to treat retired pay as the property of both the service member and spouse if the court has jurisdiction over the service member. The circumstances when the court has jurisdiction can be based on the service member’s residence because of military assignment, domicile, or consent to the court’s jurisdiction.
What is the 10/10 rule?
When determining military divorce settlements, some situations may bring up the enforcement of the 10/10 rule. The 10/10 rule only affects how the former spouse receives the divided retired pay, not whether or not they will receive it. Former spouses who are eligible under the 10/10 rule may receive direct payments from DFAS.
In order to qualify for the 10/10 rule, the former spouse had to have been married to the service member or retiree for at least 10 years, and during that time the service member or retiree served at least 10 years of creditable military service. Even if the former spouse meets these requirements, direct pay is not automatic; the award of military retired pay still has to be incorporated in a court-ordered, -ratified, or -approved divorce-related settlement.
Former spouses who do not meet the 10/10 criteria may still be awarded a portion of the service member or retiree’s retired pay by the court. However, in this case, the retired service member will receive his or her entire retired pay from DFAS, and he or she arranges for the court-ordered amount to be distributed to his or her former spouse.
What the USFSPA doesn’t do:
Require courts to divide military retired pay
Establish a formula for dividing military retired pay
Award a predetermined share of military retired pay to former spouses
Place a ceiling on the percentage of disposable retired pay that may be awarded
Require an overlap of military service and marriage as a prerequisite to division of military retired pay as property
Find an Experienced Attorney for Handling your Military Divorce
Divorce can be especially complicated when either or both spouses are in the military. Understanding how Texas military divorce laws could affect your family is important.
Talking to a Texas divorce lawyer experienced with military divorces is critical so you will be able to protect your legal rights and obtain the best settlement for you and your family. Kelly J. Capps is a knowledgeable family law attorney with experience handling military divorce cases – she works hard to find the best path forward for her clients and their families.
This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. Its purpose is to educate the public about the topic of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. This article should not be seen as legal advice. You should consult with an attorney before you rely on this information.