Just as marriage to a member of the United States Armed Forces involves its own challenges, there are also special considerations involved in divorce from a service member. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act grants you certain unique benefits, provided that you meet the necessary requirements.

Military pensions are similar to civilian retirement benefits in that the court regards both as community property during a divorce. If your marriage lasted less than 10 years, a divorce court may order your ex-spouse to pay you your share of the pension directly. However, different rules apply under the USFSPA if your marriage lasted longer than that.

10-year rule

If you and your former spouse remained married for at least 10 years and your ex-spouse served at least 10 years in the military that overlapped with your marriage, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will pay you your share of the pension directly rather than requiring your former spouse to pay it. Note that your ex-spouse’s 10 years of service must have occurred during your marriage. You do not qualify for this benefit if a portion of your former spouse’s 10+ years of service occurred before you were married.

20-year rule

If your marriage lasted 20 years or more and your ex-spouse served at least 20 years in the military during that same timeframe, you can receive full medical benefits in addition to pension payments. There are other benefits available to you under the 20-year rule, including the following:

  • Exchange privileges
  • Theater privileges
  • Commissary privileges

Medical care, commissary privileges and other benefits may expire if you eventually choose to remarry following your divorce. However, pension payments are an exception. As the civilian former spouse of a service member, you can continue to receive pension payments until the death of your ex-spouse regardless of whether or not you decide to marry again or when this occurs.