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Divorce and the Military

Tip: Don't assume your civilian lawyer knows military law.

You don't have to be a general - or the spouse of a general to have military benefits. If either of you is an active or a retired member of the military, including the National Guard, you have assets to share in a military divorce.

Divorces involving an active or retired member of the military (including the reserves) create special issues. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act gives states discretion as to how to divide military pensions. In addition to retirement pay, the act also covers commissary and exchange privileges and medical care provisions.

Retirement pay, medical care provisions, commissary and exchange privileges and certain emergency child support orders fall under federal - not state - law. The federal law will supercede your settlement agreement or state laws, but don't assume the benefits are automatically yours. You have to ask for them.

Essential Things to Remember Regarding Divorce and the Military:

  • Federal law considers military retirement pay as marital property but states don't handle it the same way.

  • A state court order is not enough to establish your benefits.

  • You have only one year after the divorce to claim your share.

  • If you remarry before you're 55, you lose the benefits.

  • Benefits may be restored if your new marriage ends in death or divorce.

  • According to federal law, divorce spouses are not entitled to the service member's disability pay.

  • If you have been married at least 10 years and the spouse has the required amount of creditable service, the former spouse may be entitled to receive retirement pay directly from the Defense and Accounting Service office (www.dfas.mil)

  • If you and your military spouse were married for 20 years or more then you are eligible for medical coverage. Your dependent children continue to receive coverage. Visit your regional TRICARE office, www.tricare.osd.mil, for info on eligibility.

Essential Things to Do:

Actions When Divorcing

What To Do First
3 Ways to End Your Marriage
Learn Your Divorce ABC's
Find and Maintain Your Lawyer
Managing Your Lawyer
How To Avoid A Court Trial
If You Choose Mediation
If You Choose Arbitration
If You Choose Collaborative Law
How To Prepare For Alternative Dispute Resolution
If You Choose To Go To Trial
"Knowledge Is Powerful" Check List
Who Gets What Where
Know What Your Marriage Is Worth
Pensions: 12 Worst Mistakes Lawyers Make
7 Key Questions To Ask About Retirement Benefits
Divorce and the Military
Hidden Assets and How To Find Them
Taxes And Divorce
Divorce and Dividing Debt
When To File For Bankruptcy
Protect Your Credit Rating
What About Your Children?
Emergency Court Orders
Appealing or Modifying Your Final Divorce Decree
Financial Transitions of Divorce
Divorce and Hard Assets
Divorce and Soft Assets

10 Ways To Feel Better Fast
How Friends And Family Can Help
Join A Group
Handle 'Divorce Anger'
Keep a Journal
Do You Need A Religious Divorce?

Ways To Move On