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Federal law addresses military divorce

In most cases a military divorce in Texas is not much different than a divorce between two civilians. Most differences arise from the state residency status of a service member on active duty or the state residency status of their spouse. Divorcing military couples can sometimes choose from more than one state in which to file for divorce. In some cases, different means of determining the length of a marriage can affect how division of assets are administered.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act expressly permits states to treat military retirement benefits as property, rather than income. The states and the courts in them have always been able to do so with any pension benefits. The USFSPA permits awarding pension benefits and property as part of federal guidelines on military divorce. A spouse who was married to a service member for ten years which coincided with the member's term of service may receive direct payment of their portion of a military pension.

The USFSPA provides guidelines on several issues related to military divorce, such as child custody and how awarding of military benefits relate to child support payments and spousal support. The deployment of a service member can often complicate a military divorce or slow the proceedings. The USFSPA offers guidelines to states about family law matters as they relate to deployed service members and their spouses.

An active duty service member, or the spouse of one, who is considering divorce may wish to speak to an attorney about military divorce. An attorney can help them learn what they need to know about the USFSPA. An attorney can discuss whether treating a military pension as property would be advantageous or not.

Source:, "Understanding Divorce in the Military", October 30, 2014

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