Divorces involving current and retired members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard often involve issues not found in non-military divorces.
For example, in a military divorce, the most valuable marital asset is typically the military pension of one spouse.
The Ten Year Rule
There are two federal laws which principally govern the division of a military pension. These two laws are Section 1408 of Title 10 of the United States Code, known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (“USFSPA”) and Part 63 of Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Federal law authorizes each individual state to treat military pensions as marital assets and it further authorizes each state to divide military pensions in accordance with each state’s laws regarding the division of marital assets, so long as the rules and limitations imposed by federal law are complied with. The rules and limitations are numerous and complex and in order to properly understand and comply with those rules, a Tampa family attorney handling a military divorce should be familiar with the applicable federal laws and experienced in handling military divorces.
An example of a commonly misunderstood concept is “The Ten Year Rule.” Often, the belief is that The Ten Year Rule requires military marriages to last ten years before a spouse is entitled to receive a share of the military pension. Still others believe that if The Ten Year Rule is satisfied, the spouse is automatically entitled to half (or some other percentage) of the member’s pension.
In fact, the “The Ten Year Rule” deals only with the method of how a former spouse that is awarded a share of the service member’s pension will receive those payments. Specifically, it entitles a spouse that was married for at least ten years while the member was on active duty to receive his or her share of the military pension directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (“DFAS”) as opposed to DFAS sending the entire monthly pension check to the service member and the service member then issuing payment to the former spouse.
However, the Ten Year Rule has nothing to do with whether the spouse is entitled to a portion of the pension in the first place nor does it have anything to do with how much of the pension a former spouse will be entitled to.