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Congress may revise military retirement pay

For military members in Texas and other states, it is clear that he or she will likely have to undergo additional steps during a military divorce. But they may now have to change their courts in order to divide military retirement pay during divorce. Congress is considering legislation that would amendmend the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, which could radically change this process.

Currently, courts have to award payments to the former spouses of military members based upon rank and service years upon retirement. This bill would mandate that ex-spouses would receive military benefits calculated upon rank and service length at the time of the service member's divorce.

As a result, opponents argue that spouses may receive a smaller share of the monthly military retirement pay of their former spouses following a military divorce. The bill's sponsor, however, argued that the amendment would protect military members by assuring that a former spouse would not receive an inequitable share of this benefit for a relatively short marriage.

Some advocates for military families also support this proposal if it conforms to the version being considered by the Senate. While calculations would be based upon the date of the divorce, the amount would be increased in accordance with the current military pay table or present value of benefits for the same rank and length of service upon retirement under the Senate's version.

The American Academy of Matrimony Lawyers Board of Governors formally opposed this bill in June. It stated that the existing calculation based upon retirement is the most equitable method to divide property and is used by almost all of the states.

One former military lawyer argued that the current method is based upon state law because there is no federal formula to divide this property. He said that this bill would undermine the states, take away their latitude on property division and transmit all authority to the federal government. Furthermore, this proposal would eliminate the principle that a spouse's final pay upon retirement is based upon the marital efforts of both spouses.

Property division and other matters in a military divorce may require legal assistance because of the complexity of Texas and federal laws. An attorney can help advise that service members and spouses of their options and the impact of laws that may change.

Source: Military Times, "'Radical' proposal would change the way retired pay is divided in divorce cases," By Karen Jowers, Aug. 9, 2016

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