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Understanding the USFSPA - Part I


Divorce, whether civilian or military, always has a financial side to it. A divorce is followed by alimony, property division, child custody, visitation rights and other disputes between the couple in court, if it turns out to be a bitter divorce. In order to protect the rights of individuals, federal and state authorities have put in place various mechanisms to deal with those issues.

Residents of Alexandria, Virginia may be interested to know that there is a law that provides benefits to former spouses of military members. The law, called the Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act, aims at providing benefits to former spouses of military members.

Although there is no automatic entitlement for former spouses of military members to receive a portion of the member's military benefits after the divorce, the ex-spouses, through a separation agreement, may agree on dividing retirement pay. The law also gives state courts discretionary power regarding the division of retirement pay in the absence of an agreement.

According to USFSPA provisions, a former spouse may receive direct payment from the Department of Finance and Accounting if a state court has ordered the former spouse to receive a portion of the retirement pay, provided that they were married for 10 years or more and the military member fulfilled certain requirements while in the military.

According to the law, a former spouse cannot be directly paid in excess of 50 percent of disposable retirement pay. This applies even if the former spouse has been awarded more than 50 percent of the retirement pay in the divorce agreement. The total amount of direct payments to the former spouse may go up to 65 percent but cannot exceed 65 percent of disposable retirement pay, even if there are payments under the USFSPA and the money is garnished for child support or spousal support.

Source: Army.mil, "Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA)," accessed on Oct. 22, 2014

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