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Military divorce: Pensions and benefits

Civilian retirement benefits are subject to division in a divorce. So too are military pensions. The Uniform Services Former Spouses' Protection Act states that courts can divide military retirement pay as community or sole property. However, the USFSPA does not offer an actual formula for division of military retirement benefits. Rather, it lets the local state court decide how the benefits will be split up.

According to the USFSPA, spouses can receive benefits if there was a ten-year overlap of military service during the couple's marriage. Once a Tennessee family law court determines how these military benefits will be divided, then the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will pay the benefits directly to the spouses according to the court's ruling.

In some cases, courts might still award an ex-spouse military benefits if the marriage overlap was less than ten years. However, in these situations, the payments must be made directly by the retiring spouse, and they will not be made by the DFAS.

Ex-spouses can also receive full commissary, medical and exchange privileges under the following conditions:

-- The marriage lasted at least 20 years.

-- There was at least a 20-year marriage and military service overlap.

-- The service member performed at least 20 years of service toward his or her retirement pay.

Military divorce comes with its own set of challenges that only apply to service members and their spouses. As such, those considering divorce -- whether they are military members themselves or the spouses of military members -- can benefit from talking with an experienced Tennessee military divorce lawyer about their situations.

Source: FindLaw, "Military divorce," accessed Dec. 15, 2016

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