Ex Military Wives Benefits

By Genevieve Van Wyden
Military retirement pay can be considered community property.

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Military married couples who decide to divorce are affected by the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, enacted in September 1982. Regarding retirement pay, this law gives individual states permission to treat the pay as community property in divorce actions. If the couples meet several requirements, the former spouse may be eligible to continue receiving and using several military benefits.

Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act makes it possible for the former spouse of a member of the military to continue receiving privileges such as access to the commissary and post or base exchange, health care benefits and a portion of the military member's retirement pay. Access to the military benefits and retirement pay are not automatic. Individual states are free to treat retirement pay as community property, which is divisible in the divorce.

Under the 20/20/20 rule, if the service member has served for at least 20 creditable years, the couple were married for at least 20 years and the marriage overlapped the period of service by at least 20 years, the former spouse is permitted to continue receiving and using full health care, commissary and post/base exchange privileges.

Survivor Benefit Plan

The Survivor Benefit Plan is set up as an annuity that provides income to named beneficiaries of deceased retired service members. If the service member has not declined participation in the SBP and he and his spouse divorce, the former spouse can be named as a beneficiary, either in response to an order of the divorce court or on a voluntary basis. The former spouse has to choose "former spouse coverage" from the Defense Finance Accounting Service within one year of the finalization of the divorce.

How the USFSPA Works

The USFSPA was written at a time when military spouses usually did not work outside the home. The Act is designed to protect these spouses, who often have little or no employment history, from falling into poverty. Concerning retirement pay, the USFSPA gives state courts jurisdiction to consider military retired pay as divisible property in divorces finalized after June 1981. This law also establishes procedures outlining how a former spouse can receive all or a portion of the state court settlement as a direct payment from the finance service center, states Military.com.

10/10 Rule and Retirement Pay

Under the 10/10 rule, Defense Finance and Accounting Service office pays the former spouse a share of the military retirement pay if at least 10 years of a couple's marriage overlapped 10 years of "creditable military service." When the DFAS receives a valid court order, it must start direct payments to the former spouse within 90 days.

In states that divide the military pay for marriages that last less than 10 years, the military spouse must pay his former spouse directly. DFAS will not send payments to the former spouse.

About the Author

Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.

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