Divorce between a military couple, whether active or retired, can leave the civilian spouse feeling uncertain about the future. With the 1982 enactment of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA), those worries were at least partially put to rest.
The USFSPA classified retired veteran pensions as community property, which in turn grants the ex-spouse of a veteran a portion of those benefits.
Discrepancies in payouts are based on benefits
The catch for the civilian former spouse is that some veterans are ineligible for receiving both disability pay and a federal pension. Many in that situation opt for the disability payments instead, since they’re exempt from income taxation. In those cases, the disability pay isn’t classified as a marital asset, so a former spouse cannot receive any of those funds.
The Supreme Court ruled that, because of this discrepancy, veterans who select disability cannot be forced to pay additional allocations to an ex-spouse to compensate. As a result, those spouses may have a more difficult time gaining traction after a divorce, since they may receive less payment after litigation.
Using the 10/10 rule
Under the 10/10 rule, people whose veteran ex-spouse will receive pension may ask for their share directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service rather than receiving it from their ex-spouse. The 10/10 formula refers to eligibility for this provision based on at least 10 years of marriage and 10 years of military service.
Ultimately, military divorce is more a more complicated process, especially for the civilian half of the relationship, who may have given up a career and other forms of self-sustenance to perform the duties of a military spouse. Getting back on your feet after divorcing a veteran may depend on working with an experienced attorney to understand all of your federally mandated options.