The federal government established rules to ensure that former spouses of military services members receive certain military benefits and pay upon divorce. The rules within the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) grant a Maryland court the ability to divorce a military couple. Under certain circumstances, former spouses may be paid directly their share of a service member’s retirement pay.
Military retired pay and divorce
The USFSPA does not require a state court to divide a service member’s retired pay with a former spouse. However, under certain circumstances, a court may do so in order to enable a fair and equitable divorce settlement or if the divorcing spouses have agreed to it. A court may order a portion of retired pay to be directed to the former spouse for child support or alimony.
Military retired pay as marital property
The terms of the USFSPA leave decisions about military retired pay in the hands of a state court. The act does not propose a formula or restrict the amount of retired pay a former spouse might receive. These questions are to be decided by state law where the people live just as would happen in a nonmilitary divorce.
Unlike when retired pay is seen as income that may be available to pay child or spousal support, the pay may be viewed as property to be divided when a marriage lasts at least 10 years. During a marriage of at least 10 years, the service member must have been in the military for at least 10 years.
Other military benefits for former spouses
In a divorce, some former spouses may qualify for continued access to military medical care, which could be quite valuable. A former spouse could also remain eligible to use a military exchange and commissary.