USFSPA: Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act

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The intention of Congress in 1982 in creating the USFSPA was to ensure that former spouses of military members receive financial protection after the marriage is over. This Act could protect the former spouse through divisions in military retirement pay in becoming marital property when the couple dissolve the relationship.

Military spouses have various benefits and opportunities through the relationship with the military spouse. However, when the marriage ends, some may experience difficulty in obtaining work and finding jobs. A spouse to a military service member may have been the primary person in the house taking care of children or the household while the other spouse was on duty or deployed for active service. The USFSPA and other regulations are necessary to ensure that the other spouse that leaves the military marriage is taken care of during the short-term and long-term when married to a service person for some time.

Marital Property Explained

There are various benefits that the military service spouse has through working for the United States military branches. This may include insurance and retirement accounts and programs. The spouse to this person may benefit from these plans until divorce occurs. However, some accounts and monetary amenities become marital property. This permits the spouse that divorces the military service member the ability to acquire a portion of the account balance depending on certain factors. For retirement age personnel, the ex-spouse generally has the ability to collect up to half of this amount. This may change based on current and new laws affecting military benefits and marital property.

Support to the Child and Ex-Spouse

It is possible for the ex-spouse to receive support and child payments when no longer married to the service member. A court order must initiate this process for child support or alimony if not already part of the divorce proceedings initially. The order does not need to specify that payment will come from a retirement benefit or from direct payment. However, the process must name the military member specifically and state the Social Security Number attached to him or her. Garnishments from retirement pay from military veterans cannot exceed 65% of these payments. However, the garnished amounts may occur after the divorce is final.

For direct payment wards from the retirement pay as transferred through marital property after a divorce, the ex-spouse must have been part of the marriage for no less than ten years total. The military member must have been in creditable service that leads to retirement for at least ten years during the marriage. After these requirements, the ex-spouse must then receive a court order for direct payment to transfer the funds from a retirement plan or account. Once conditions meet these necessary rules, monthly payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service of the associated state will directly pay the person in the form of a check.

All States Encompassed

While many regulations regarding certain payments for spousal and child support change based on the location within the United States, the USFSPA affects military members equally around the country. However, there are subtle differences based on the specific state in how the marital property will face a division between spouses after a divorce completes.

Retirement Pay Divisions

How retirement pay will become divided between divorced spouses often depends greatly on the specific state. This could lead to future payments given to an ex-spouse at the retirement of the retired veteran by the courts. Monthly payments received by the non-military spouse often are possible through a court order. However, the state courts do not have the power to divide retirement pay until the military person reaches the point of retiring from military service. Additionally, the service member may offset payments based on other income he or she may receive such as disability. This will decrease what amount the other spouse will receive.

Protections from the USFSPA

The military veteran may have complications in retiring when his or her income faces divisions from an ex-spouse. This could decrease his or her quality of life if retirement accounts are the only sources of income he or she will receive. Dividing this to up to 50 percent is difficult for some.

It is often important to contact a lawyer when an ex-spouse becomes part of retirement account circumstances. If the spouse needs help in receiving the income in accordance with the USFSPA, a lawyer may help in contacting the appropriate authorities. This may also require communication with the military veteran.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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