If you’re the former spouse of a member of the active duty military, you probably already know about – and are perhaps already receiving – your right to a share of your ex-spouse’s military retirement benefits. Under Texas law, these benefits are treated as community property up to the date of the divorce.
Other considerations apply, however, to the benefits that former spouses can receive on the basis of the length of the marriage and the length of the military spouse’s service. If you have any questions as to your rights under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (FSPA), contact an experienced military property division lawyer at the Law Office of Douglas C. Smith.
My familiarity with the interplay between the different statutes that affect the range of benefits available to the former spouse can help you maximize the value of those benefits. At issue here is not the division of the retirement benefits themselves, but the extras that recognize length of marriage and length of military service.
These extra benefits begin at the 10-year mark – if the marriage lasted 10 years or more during the military spouse’s creditable service toward his own retirement benefits, then the former spouse is entitled to receive direct payment from a military pay center. Additional benefits attach if the marriage lasted 15 years or longer. If the marriage lasted 20 years or more, with a 20-year overlapping period with the military spouse’s creditable service, then the former spouse is entitled to medical benefits, post exchange benefits, and commissary benefits. These rights last until the former spouse remarries, but if the subsequent marriage terminates for any reason, the former spouse resumes his or her right to the benefits.
As you might imagine, difficult issues can arise when it appears that either the length of the marriage or the length of creditable military service time falls just short of a 10-year, 15-year, or 20-year threshold. I can review your situation and see whether my experience and familiarity with the FSPA and other statutes can point a way toward extending your benefits beyond the given threshold. In one case, I was able to use the SCRA to demonstrate that the marriage lasted six months longer than previously believed – because the court had abated the divorce proceeding due to the servicemember’s active duty, thus extending the length of the marriage past the critical 20-year period of overlap between active years and years of marriage.
For additional information about your rights under the FSPA, contact me in El Paso.