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If you have stayed home while your spouse worked in a successful military career, you may worry about how to survive after a divorce. You stayed out of the workforce to take care of the children and household, relying on your spouse’s paychecks and pension. Now, you worry that you won’t have any savings for retirement.

However, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) can protect your right to your military spouse’s retirement. After several years of marriage, you may be able to collect pension benefits even if you divorce.

A court may give you a share of military pension

When you go through a divorce, anything you earned during the marriage can be split. This property can include pension or retirement savings that one of you made. If you didn’t have a retirement account, a judge could grant you a portion of your spouse’s pension.

DFAS can pay you directly

But instead of your spouse receiving benefits and paying you your share, you can receive payment directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). The USFSPA allows a court order for pension division to enforce payments for military retirement.

Meeting the 10/10 rule

Not every spouse can qualify for this protection. The marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. The service member must also have served 10 years while you two were married. If the couple does not meet the 10/10 rule, then the service member receives the full pension payment and must pay the spouse.

Your contributions matter

The USFSPA recognizes that you contributed to your spouse’s military career. By taking care of the home, you allowed your spouse to be available for service and sacrificed your own retirement savings.

If you were married long enough, you can use the protections of USFSPA to get direct pension payments.