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What is the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act?

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is a special law designed to honor the ex-spouses of military service members by allowing them to maintain certain military benefits that they enjoyed during the course of their marriages. Aside from the ability to remain eligible for health care, exchange and commissary benefits, perhaps the most important benefit for ex-spouses provided by the USFSPA is the ability to receive part of the service member's retirement pay.

It should be noted that the receipt of retirement pay in a military divorce is not automatic and it is not guaranteed. What the USFSPA does, however, is it permits states to categorize military disposable retirement pay as marital property and divide it accordingly during divorce proceedings. To be clear, disposable retirement pay is defined under the law as the military member's monthly retirement pay after qualified deductions have been subtracted.

Under the USFSPA, local courts are instructed to divide disposable military retirement pay just the same as it would a civilian employee pension plan. The USFSPA further allows military retirement pay to be garnished to pay for alimony and child support. As such, in the state of Florida, the manner in which military retirement pay will be divided -- whether it will be categorized as marital property and/or how much of it will be categorized as marital property -- will be a matter under the jurisdiction of Florida family law.

Military service members, and the future ex-spouses of military service members, may want to discuss how the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act will affect them in their divorce proceedings in conjunction with Florida family law. Getting a thorough review of one's situation can be very helpful so that spouses know what to expect and what they should prepare for before they initiate their divorce processes.

Source: Military.com, "Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Overview," accessed Nov. 16, 2016

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