Service members and spouses should know their rights under USFSPA

Divorce, child custody and child support proceedings in Salt Lake County involving active duty and retired military personnel frequently present issues that can be unique to service members. Federal laws, such as the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, have been enacted to authorize courts in Utah and other states to deal with issues of military benefits and providing a means of enforcing state orders.

In a divorce, the spouse of service members are not entitled under military laws to share in military benefits such retirement payments. The USFSPA grants states the power to treat retirement pay as marital property to be distributed as part of divorce. 

State court orders awarding military retirement pay to a former spouse must be state the amount as a percentage of the retirement pay less deductions allowed under the law, or it may express it as a predetermined dollar amount. A former spouse who was married for at least 10 years to a service member who was in the military for 10 years or more may apply to the federal Department of Finance and Accounting to receive the payments directly from the government.

The UFSPA also offers former spouses the opportunity to enforce child support orders and spousal support orders by receiving payments from the service member's retirement pay. Child support arrears may be collected in this manner as well as currently due payments provided order directing the payment of the arrears is no more than two years old. Spousal support arrears may not be collected in this manner.

In situations in which the service member was on active duty when the divorce proceeds took place, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act offers protection to the military member. The Utah court proceedings must have been in compliance with the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act for the former spouse to be able to take advantage of the rights provided in the USFSPA.

Service members and their spouses needing additional information about the federal laws pertaining to divorce, child support and related issues should speak to an attorney with knowledge of military divorce.

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