Divorce often takes place in a courthouse near where you live. But what if you or your spouse is abroad and actively servicing in the military? What benefits and pay count as property?

The North Carolina bar helps answer these questions by explaining the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act. The USFSPA is a series of protections designed to divide military disposable retired pay as marital property.

Protections and benefits

Assuming you are the spouse in this situation, the USFSPA grants you a “marital portion” of the servicemember’s retired pay equal to a certain portion earned during the marriage. The court award this payment upon the member’s retirement, but if you receive a court order requiring child support or alimony, there may be ways to receive direct payment. While no court can force a member to retire in order to divide the pension, the marital portion of the pension can stand as a trade against other marital property such as the residence if the values are roughly equal.

Limitations

You may not establish payments of this portion to your estate or heirs. Pension division awards cannot exceed more than 50% of the member’s disposable retired pay. That maximum increases to 65% if you have alimony or child support orders. Depending on the length of your marriage, the duration of your spouse’s service and the overlap of both, you may qualify for full benefits.

Military service rarely makes divorce easier. But knowing the options and answers can help. There are resources available should you have more questions. We encourage you to read more on the subject through our website.