One goal most married couples work towards as a team is their retirement savings. When the marriage fails so does the partnership and this means retirement savings need to be split according to what the court deems is fair. For military personnel, the government has a law called the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which protects the military personnel’s spouse. Many service personnel have spouses that are homemakers. This is especially commonplace when families are living in another country. It can be near impossible for civilian spouses to obtain working visas while abroad. If spouse is unemployed or stay at home parent, then this spouse has no contributing income to the family household. In the event that the marriage fails, this Act helps protect the non-working spouse.
The USFSPA gives the state permission to treat the military retirement pay as a marital property rather than income. In Virginia, the law treats military retirement pay as property subject to be divided in a divorce settlement. The retired pay may be used to towards alimony and child support. The Act also provides other benefits to the military spouse. Under the Act, a former spouse can still be listed as the surviving beneficiary. The Survivor Benefit Plan enables spouses and ex-spouses to collect retirement income of service member even after service member’s death. Also for those that qualify, the USFSPA allows former spouses to continue receiving health care benefits after the divorce.
Do I qualify to receive any of these benefits?
In order to qualify for retirement pay, the former spouse needs to have been married to service member for at least ten years of which ten of those years of marriage had to overlap with ten years of military service. If military spouse was in the service for only eight years or if the marriage only lasted seven years, the former spouse would not be entitled to receive retirement pay under the USFSPA. However, the courts may still rule in favor of retirement pay to be allocated as part of divorce action.
In order for former spouse to receive full health care benefits from military, spouse must have been married for at least 20 years to military spouse. During those twenty plus years, twenty of them had to be while spouse was actively in armed forces. If military spouse was only in service for 15 years during the time of marriage, but the marriage still lasted longer than 20 years, the former spouse will be entitled to only one year of medical benefits. After that, the spouse can look into DOD conversion health plans.
For more information, look at the statutes pertaining to the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act or contact a military divorce attorney for legal counsel.