On behalf of The Law Offices of Mary Ann Beaty, PC posted in Military Divorce on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

There are many military members and former military members in Texas. A vast number of these service members, past and present, were in the service of the country for sufficient time to receive military benefits such as a pension and medical coverage after they have been discharged. In some instances, these people were married and chose to divorce.

A military divorce is different from a civilian divorce in that the benefits might have to be provided to the former spouse even after the marriage is concluded. The Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) shields a former military spouse and allows them to receive these military benefits. There was a minor change to the law in the waning days of the previous presidential administration that both military members and their spouses or former spouses should know about.

In December of 2016, President Obama signed a law to amend how disposable pay is defined based on USFSPA. The disposable income will be limited to the amount of basic pay the member received based on pay grade and amount of time spent in the military when the court order was made. It will also be increased by cost of living raises that military retirees receive from when the divorce was finalized to the date of retirement.

This affects how the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will pursue garnishment if necessary. The following three factors must be in effect if the service member entered the military before September 8, 1980: how much the former spouse was awarded whether it was a fixed amount, a percentage, a formula or a hypothetical amount; the pay grade of the service member when the divorce was completed; and the amount of time the service member was credited for when divorced. For members who joined the military after the above date, the following factors are considered: how much the former spouse was awarded; the “high-3,” which is the highest amount the retiree can receive in retirement based on a maximum three-year average in pay; and the amount of time the service member was credited for when the divorce took place.

Service members or former service members who receive a pension and benefits as well as their spouses need to understand how the recent subtle change to the USFSPA affects them. When there is a military divorce, it can have an impact on military retirement benefits. Having a lawyer who is well-versed in the impact of a divorce on military benefits is integral to dealing with a case.

Source: dfas.mil, “Former Spouses’ Protection Act — NDAA-’17 Court Order Requirements,” accessed on April 24, 2017