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Military divorce poses additional challenges

Numerous state and federal laws govern many issues for military families such as finances, retirement and benefits. These laws may also determine the outcome of a military divorce.

While service personnel face the same procedural process as civilians, additional time may be involved. The divorce proceedings may be longer if a spouse is permanently stationed overseas or in a remote area. Some states, however, have lowered the residency requirements for active duty members of the military who are permanently stationed in that state.

The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act requires military couples to comply with state laws on child support, spousal support, military pay and pension and other issues. The USFPA allows states to classify military pay and pension as property, instead of income, even though pay is usually treated like any other marital asset.

Military couples face also unique issues concerning military pay and pension. A couple must be married for at least 10 years overlapping with 10 years of service before the Defense Finance and Accounting Service may directly pay retirement benefits to a former spouse.

States, however, may have different criteria to determine marriage length. Furthermore, disqualification for DFAS direct payments does not block eligibility for all payments because military pay may be awarded to a former spouse with child support, alimony or maintenance.

Different methods are used to calculate the percentage of the pension that may be awarded to former spouses. These may depend on the length of the marriage or the amount of points that were accumulated.

Couples also have to address the thrift saving plan and meet different requirements from a civilian retirement plan division. A survivor benefits plan is a mutually exclusive benefit that has to be incorporated in the divorce settlement.

The 20/20/20 rule also governs other military benefits such as base privileges and Tricare eligibility. This rule applies for a marriage over 20 years, the ex-spouse served in the military for at least 20 years and the marriage overlapped service time by at least 20 years.

Facing the additional challenges of these divorces in Texas may be assisted by prompt legal representation. This can help assure that rights are protected.

Source: Military.com, "Understanding divorce in the military," Accessed June 14, 2016

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