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Divorce and the division of military pensions - III

In a series of ongoing posts, we've been discussing the protection afforded to civilian spouses by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, which dictates that the monthly pension payments paid out to retired servicemembers can be classified as marital property in a divorce and therefore divided in accordance with applicable state law.

In today's post, we'll continue this discussion, addressing such issues as which court will have jurisdiction over the division of the military pension, and how a civilian spouse can secure direct payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. 

Division of the military pension and state court jurisdiction

One of the more common questions that both military and civilian spouses have is which state court will have jurisdiction over the division of the military pension.

While this may seem like an obvious question, consider that military couples relocate frequently and may even end up residing in different states after filing.

In general, a state court is deemed to have jurisdiction over the division of the marital portion of a military pension if any of the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The servicemember is a legal resident of the state.
  • The servicemember resides in the state for non-military purposes/assignments.
  • The servicemember agrees that the state court in which the property division lawsuit is filed has jurisdiction.

Direct payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service

For those unfamiliar with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, it is the center through which the majority of servicemembers receive their direct pension payments.

While it's understandable how a civilian spouse would also want to receive their share of the military pension via these direct payments, the USFSPA dictates that the civilian spouse must pass the "10-year test" for this to happen.

Specifically, the "10-year test" requires civilian spouses to meet the following criteria in order to receive direct payments:

  • They must have been married to the servicemember for a minimum of 10 years and the servicemember must have performed at minimum of 10 years of service that qualified for retirement purposes over this time.
  • They must secure a court order dictating that their share of the military pension will be distributed via direct payment.   

We'll continue this discussion.

Military divorce is often incredibly complex. As such, anyone contemplating such a move should strongly consider consulting with an experienced legal professional to learn more about the law and their options.

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