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What a spouse receives after a military divorce

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act helps inform those in Oklahoma and other states about what happens when someone in the military gets a divorce. The former spouse of a service member may continue to receive health benefits and commissary after dissolving a marriage in some cases, but the spouse is not automatically guaranteed any of a service member's retired pay.

Under the USFSPA, military disposable retired pay can be treated like a civilian pension plan in a courtroom. This means the retired pay could be divided between a service member and former spouse as part of a divorce settlement. In some cases, retired pay could also serve as alimony or child support.

For continued benefits like commissary after a military divorce, a service member must have served 20 years of creditable service or more. If this is the case, the marriage must have lasted for at least 20 years during at least 20 years of the member's period of service. Those who meet these requirements qualify as 20/20/20 former spouses and receive full benefits for health care, commissary and exchange. If a 20-year marriage overlapped with at least 15 years of a service member's 20-year or longer career, some benefits may be available. Former spouses who do not meet the requirements lose privileges when a divorce is finalized but could seek health care through the DOD Continued Health Care Benefit Program.

Any couple may struggle with reaching a settlement agreement when going through a divorce, but the process could be even more confusing when one party is a service member. A former military spouse may be eligible for certain benefits while a service member might want to keep as much of his or her retirement pay as possible. An attorney might be necessary so that both parties receive a fair deal.

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