Military Divorce
Summary in Divorce

A military divorce differs from a civilian divorce in one salient feature. In a military divorce, state courts divide retirement benefits ("retired pay") according to the Uniformed Services Former Spousesí Protection Act (USFSPA). This means the state courts treat retirement pay as property, not income, and award up to 50 percent of it to the former spouse. USFSPA permits a former spouse to receive retired pay directly from the finance center, based on the number of years married concurrent with military service. Moreover, the computation of the retired pay is made based on the rank at the time of retirement, not at the time of divorce.

USFSPA applies to both male and female members of the uniform services, regular and reserve components on active duty, or already retired in all branches of the military. USFSPA does not preclude the award of other support from retired pay. The division of retired pay may be made apart from any alimony or child support. Furthermore, since it is property, the pay continues even after the remarriage of the former nonmilitary spouse.

In addition, a military divorce may be slowed if the military member avails himself or herself of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). SCRA protects servicemen who, by virtue of military service, might not be able to answer and/or enter an appearance in court and thus be exposed to a default judgment against them. A military defendant in a civil action may enlist SCRA to postpone a legal action against him or her for the duration of his or her military service plus 60 days. As this applies to divorce, a military spouse can request a delay in the proceedings and provide proof that his or her military duties prevent him or her from obtaining proper representation in court. SCRA coverage is generally extended to service members on extended deployments or overseas assignments, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

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