Military Membersí Duty to Provide Support

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It is often when a military member divorces his or her spouse that he or she must provide support to the other spouse and any children from the marriage that do not live with the military member. Knowing how much this is and how the rules work is important for the military spouse when facing the divorce and even retirement.

The military member often owes his or her former spouse the debt of support. The spouse or parent that lives on the property without a primary job or that needs to take care of children may have few options available after the marriage ends in the job force. This would lead to the military member needing to provide support to him or her until he or she is able to support the family. By remarrying someone else, the spousal support usually ends. However, support to the children often is mandatory and will continue until the child is no longer underage per the state.

The Former Spouse and Retirement Pay

While many spouses will receive some form of support until they are able to take care of the family fully, some may receive up to half of the retirement pay a military member receives at the time of retirement age. However, these circumstances are not automatically provided to the former spouse. The ex-spouse needs to win a final divorce order with rights to the retirement pay as property of the marriage. Then, he or she must meet other requirements by the time the military member reaches retirement age, and if he or she is able to offset the amounts in other manners, the former spouse may receive less than usual.

Child and Spousal Support

When the military servicemember is no longer providing for the family directly, he or she may need to give monetary support to the former wife or husband and any children that live with the other parent. In certain instances, the child may travel between both parents based on state guidelines and custody arrangements. In these situations, the military father or mother may not need to provide as much monetary support as time and attention to the needs of the youth. If the young person needs airfare, traveling accommodations or other items such as clothing, the military servicemember may give these in place of money.

For a former spouse that does not have a job, the military member may supply enough income to him or her until he or she acquires the ability to acquire gainful employment. This could take months or longer depending on factors such as disability or a lack of skills. Monetary support may also occur in increased amounts through retirement for the military servicemember and the former spouse based on the USFSPA guidelines and requirements. This could become invalid if the former spouse marries again or does not satisfy the necessary conditions such as age or year of birth.

Retirement Benefits and Support

Some military servicemember will elect to provide support to a spouse at the time of retirement. However, when the couple divorce, the benefits may still go through unless the ex-spouse remarries. In usual circumstances, the person may seek a divorce settlement for support and retirement benefits. This heavily depends on the state courts and laws. This could lead to dividing a retirement account, pension or other benefits. When the military member elects no one, he or she may still need to support the former spouse during retirement and divide pay. This may decrease the quality of life and lead to hardship.

Mitigating the damage is possible through other accounts and payments not considered marital property. Some programs and payments may offset the costs of dividing pensions or retirement pay. Through disability or medical issues, the former military member may reduce payment through retirement or pension and increase the amount he or she will have during this stage of life. The person may still choose to provide for the former spouse, but this is only necessary if he or she qualifies based on certain criteria. Outside of these standards, no further payment needs to transfer to him or her.

Military Member Legal Support

The servicemember may need to hire a lawyer to either attempt to fight the monetary support or accept the money transfer to a former spouse. This is necessary at the time of divorce if possible. The individual will need to show up in court with legal representation and present the case before a judge.


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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