Spouses of military personnel in Texas have additional protections for enforcement of orders under federal laws following a military divorce. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA), state courts may distribute retirement pay to formers spouse of service members and the Department of Defense (DOD) may enforce these state court support orders.

Federal law does not entitle former spouses to any part of a service member’s retirement pay. For DOD enforcement, a state court has to order the distribution of part of this pay to the former spouse.

The DOD will enforce court orders that include divorce, dissolution, annulment, legal separation and court-ordered property settlements. However, these orders have to relate to payment of spousal, child support or retirement pay as property to the former spouse.

Where there was domestic abuse, the USFSPA also grants benefits to a former spouse who loses retirement pay rights after becoming eligible from years of service. Spouses who were abused may also enforce an order dividing retirement pay as property, if requirements are met. These rights, though, end if the former spouses remarry or either spouse dies. Dependent children are also entitled to child support if their other parent died because of the service member’s abuse.

Service members on active duty are entitled to rights in state courts under another law. When the spouses are divorced, while the member is serving on active duty, the former spouse’s award of retirement pay is determined by a legally acceptable formula or a hypothetical pay award. Retirement pay that is awarded as property must be expressed a fixed dollar amount or by making allowable deductions from gross retirement pay.

The 10/10 rule and jurisdictional requirements govern allocating retirement pay as property. But, these rules do not apply to child or spousal support.

A member and former spouse had to be married for at least 10 years, and the member must have performed a minimum of 10 years of military service that serves as credit toward eligibility for retirement.

To enforce orders dividing retirement, a state court must have jurisdiction over the member by the member’s residence and domicile, consent or the member’s affirmative action in court.

An attorney can assist spouses seeking their rights under state and federal laws. They may help a spouse obtain a legal and equitable share of military benefits.