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What can an older couple expect to face in a military divorce?

When it comes to divorce for a couple where one party is in the military and one is non-military, there are certain rules to follow. 

If the couple is older and the marriage lasted longer than 20 years, there are additional rules about military retirement pay, medical care and other benefits. 

Retirement pay basics according to USFSPA

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act does not establish set requirements for determining the division of retirement pay in a divorce. State laws cover that decision. For example, contrary to popular belief, a marriage of 10 years is not the threshold for the division of retirement pay. A state can award a portion of retirement pay to a non-military spouse who was only married for one year or even less. A marriage of at least 10 years becomes significant because this is the requirement if the Department of Defense is to make a direct payment to the non-spouse recipient of the retirement pay. 

Benefits for older divorcing couples

After a marriage of 20 years or more, a former spouse who meets the criteria will receive not only a share of military retired pay but also several other benefits and privileges. As long as there was a 20-year or greater overlap between the service of the military spouse and the marriage, these would include medical benefits and the ability to use military exchanges and commissaries. Since the benefits are statutory entitlements, they are not subject to negotiation during a divorce. 

Jurisdiction matters

According to the provisions of the USFSPA, a state court must have territorial jurisdiction over the military member in a divorce in order to divide retired pay. Remember that the court will divide retired pay based on the length of the marriage as well as the length of military service.