Federal Benefits and Financial Management to Consider in the Negotiation Process of a Military Divorce
Divorcing before the service member has attained 20 years of creditable service for retired pay purposes can be detrimental to the non-military spouse. It is only after leaving the Service that many people find out how good life really was, and how they took for granted many benefits that civilians never enjoy. For couples who are close to the 20-year point, we recommend that you remain married until you attain the 20 years overlap, so that the spouse can qualify for benefits under the 20/20/20 rule, which is: 20 years of marriage, during which the service member served 20 creditable years, and for which there was an overlap of 20 years between the two.
As benefits are lost, both the service member and spouse may find themselves facing some serious financial difficulties. Knowing what some of these are will help when planning pre- and post-divorce strategies for your economic well being.
Such planning is akin to the planning that should take place when any couple is happily married. For example, the service member may receive special allowances and pays (e.g., because of location, job duties, or specific activities). These special monies do not last forever, and running your family as if they did will undoubtedly end in economic disaster.
When a certain benefit will not be available to either the service member or the non-military spouse after the divorce (and in some cases, before the divorce but after separation), then the parties must determine whether it can be replaced and how it will be replaced--which most likely means, what will it cost to replace that benefit. Such issues need to be discussed with your legal counsel.
What are some benefits that may not be there when the divorce is final?
These are just a few of the many benefits and aspects of financial management military couples must consider, Other issues, as well as the ones mentioned, are discussed in depth in the book, Divorce and the Military II, Indeed, the list can serve as a basis for discovery by your attorney.
In summary, both parties, and particularly the non-military spouse, need to know exactly what their financial picture is--the basic pay, additional pays, tax savings, and whether such monies and benefits will remain or disappear after the divorce. The bottom line reality is this: It costs money to get a divorce and it costs money to maintain two separate households. Divorcing military couples must accept that some things are unlikely ever to be as good as they were while married. Failing to account for your entire financial and economic picture will result in challenges you may never overcome.
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USFSPA – The Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) recognizes the right of state courts to distribute military retired pay to a spouse or ex–spouse and provides a method of enforcing these orders through the Department of Defense. USFSPA does not make division of military pay mandatory during divorce.
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Divorce & the Military II
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