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Understanding military divorce

Monday, May 21, 2018

Breaking up a military marriage may be confusing. But, Texas and federal law govern military divorce for active duty personnel in the U.S. Army and their spouses.

Divorce actions must be filed in Texas courts which have the authority to rule on legal issues. Spouses may negotiate the terms of their divorce addressing child support, child custody and spousal support or litigate these matters in state court.

Service members' retirement are one of the significant legal matters. A military spouse is not necessarily entitled to a service member's retirement based on the length of their marriage.

Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, a Texas court may award part of retirement pay to a former spouse. A state court may treat retirement pay like other property in a community property state and divide it like the couple's other assets.

Length of marriage is only significant for determining eligibility for direct payment from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. If eligible for direct payment of retirement benefits, a spouse may receive that pay directly from the DFAS. If a court grants a spouse military retirement pay and the marriage overlaps with 10 years of service, the spouse may receive eligibility pay directly from the DFAS.

The Army has a regulation that address support if the couple separates. However, this regulation only provides guidance to the base commander if a family member complains about a lack of support. The commander cannot take any action if there is a court order or a written or even an oral agreement addressing support.

This regulation is also limited to family members who live off the post in non-government housing and does not deal with past due support. Any valid support order from a commander only covers the period from the time that a complaint was made.

Civilian and service personnel should seek legal advice from a civilian family law attorney who can represent them in state court, mediation or settlement negotiations. They can also assure that their rights are protected under federal and Texas laws and that a fair and reasonable decree is issued.

Source: Fort Leavenworth Lamp.com, "Sorting myth from facts about military divorce," By Capt. Hyun Muniz, March 8, 2018

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