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The military life can be difficult for a family and, in some cases, a military divorce is unavoidable. Since there are so many people who are members of the military in Virginia or have retired from military service and settled in the Commonwealth, it is important to understand the various laws that are in place to protect both the service member and a non-military spouse if there is a divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act is an important factor to understand in these cases.

There are two main issues that the USFSPA is meant to handle. It allows state courts to make the distributions of retired military pay to a former spouse, and it has a way to enforce orders via the Department of Defense. Under USFSPA, the former spouse does not automatically get a portion of the pay of the former service member. There must be an award of the portion in a court order. With USFSPA, there is also a way to enforce back child support and current alimony that was determined in the court order.

The following can be enforced under USFSPA: divorce, a dissolution of marriage, an annulment, a legal separation and property settlements via court-order. The dates of the orders are relevant. For orders before June 26, 1981, the court order can be honored if the USFSPA requirements are met. With amendments after June 25, 1981, to court orders before June 26, 1981 that did not address dividing retired pay as property, USFSPA cannot be cited for enforcement. If the court order was issued before Nov. 14, 1986, it can be unenforceable if any of the pay is for disability.

These are some of the basic protections accorded by USFSPA. For people who are getting a military divorce, it is critical to understand the difference between it and a civilian divorce. This can impact every issue at the end of a marriage from alimony to child support and retaining military benefits for the non-service member former spouse. Having legal help is always crucial in any case. A law firm with a grasp of military pensions, military benefits and every other concern in a military divorce should be contacted immediately.