Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA)

A military couple who are divorcing must make themselves familiar with the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act  (USFSPA), which the state courts apply when the service couple divorce.

The USFSPA does not automatically give the nonmilitary spouse any of the service member’s pay. Instead, USFSPA allows the state court to treat disposable military pay as property and divide it. In short, USFSPA permits the courts to treat retired pay as a pension plan. The nonmilitary spouse whose divorce decreed is properly stated can receive his or her share of the retired pay from Defense Finance and Account (DFAS), which acts like the plan administrator of a pension plan.

Under USFSPA, a former spouse can be designated as a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) beneficiary. SBP is an annuity that allows retired service members to provide continued income to a named beneficiary in the event of the retiree’s death. A retiring servicemember is enrolled in SBP unless he or she declines to participate.

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