Like civilian marriages, some military marriages in Virginia end in divorce. Because of the unique laws and rules regarding the military, there are certain protections that former military spouses have that help protect them in the event of a divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, or USFSPA, protects former spouses of military members and governs the disbursement of the military member’s pension. Military members also need to adhere to these guidelines so that any actions they take don’t affect their security clearances.
The USFSPA allows that the state court where the military member lives shall provide military retired pay to the former spouse. The law is set up in such a way that it allows the Department of Defense to enforce the orders. It’s often assumed that if a military couple divorces, the former non-military spouse is automatically entitled to that member’s retired pay. This is not necessarily the case. In order for the former spouse to gain access to a portion of the former military members’ retired pay, it should have been assigned to them in their final court order.
This law also makes it easy for court orders issued to be easily enforceable. These include divorce orders, annulment orders, dissolution orders, legal separation orders and property settlement orders. In order for these orders to be enforced, they must clearly indicate that payment is to be made to a former spouse for child support, retired pay or alimony. There is also a section of the USFSPA called Section 1408(h). This section allows benefits to still be provided to a former spouse or child of a military member who becomes ineligible for retired military pay due to abuse of that dependent child or spouse.
Divorce law can be complicated on its own, and military divorces add whole new levels of complexity. By working with attorneys who handle military divorces, former spouses and military members may have a better chance of reaching fair outcomes.