Former Spouse Benefits

Benefits for Former Spouse


Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) P.L. 97.252 Benefits authorized for a former spouse of a servicemember or n retired servicemember vary according to the length of marriage and the amount of time the marriage overlapped with military service. The most complete benefit package is for a "20-20-20" spouse, i.e., where the servicemember served 20 years and the. marriage lasted 20 years while the servicemember was on active duty. "20-20-20" spouses are entitled to full medical, commissary and exchange privileges, If the marriage lasted from 15 to 20 years and the divorce was finalized prior to April 1, 1985, the former spouse is entitled only to medical care. For divorces finalized after April 1, 1985, medical coverage is provided for one year only. In all cases, medical benefits are authorized only if the former spouse is not covered under his or her own employer-sponsored medical plan. Upon remarriage of the non-military former spouse all privileges and entitlements under the Act are withdrawn.

USFSPA permits, but does not require, State courts to consider non-disability military retired (or retainer) pay as marital property in divorce proceedings. Disability retired pay cannot be divided under this law, The length .of marriage is irrelevant under the USFSPA for the State court to divide retired pay. Many people believe that ten years of marriage are needed before a State court can order division of retired pay. This is not true. The ten year requirement only affects requests for direct payment to a former spouse by a finance center. If the ten year requirement has not been met, the former spouse must seek payment directly from the retired member.

In accordance with an amendment to the USFSPA effective February 3, 1991, the calculation of disposable retired pay is made before taxes are withheld. When a finance center makes direct payment to a former spouse, it will withhold taxes from and report payments to the IRS separately for the retiree and former spouse.

(NOTE from BJ 'n Cindy: This was designed by and for the US Naval Service, but the information should be similar for all services. The information while deemed reliable should not be the substitute for consultation with an attorney (either civilian or military), or any other federal or state agency which may be chartered with providing assistance.)

The material in this handbook is current as of September 1993. Prepared by LCDR D. L. KARR, JAGG, USN, Naval Legal Service Office, Puget Sound.