Thursday, January 12, 2017

No... divorced military spouses are NOT automatically entitled to retirement pay...

I spent about an hour chatting with a friend of mine who will be leaving the Air Force in a few years. We were discussing retirement plans and I told her we might try to stay overseas for awhile.  She mentioned that the Air Force had some new rules about being a retired expat.  That was news to me, so I went looking for more information.  Bill was in the Army, but sometimes these things transcend all of the branches.

I found an interesting article about military retirees moving abroad, but was even more interesting were the comments.  A woman wrote that she had divorced her ex husband in Australia after he retired.  She was not awarded any of his military retirement pay.  She says it's because Australia has no jurisdiction over awarding retirement pay.  Now she's struggling and feels she's not getting something to which she is "entitled".  She thinks she should be getting 50% of her ex husband's money.

First off, it is true that there's a law that can allow state courts to compel a retired servicemember to give some of his or her retirement pay to an ex spouse.  The law, named The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), was enacted in 1982 after a 1981 case involving an Army Colonel and his ex wife who had divorced after many years.  The law offers some protection to military spouses, who may have not been able to build a career owing to the many moves that can take place during a servicemember's career.

However, all the law does is make it possible for spouses to be awarded some of the retirement pay.  Whether or not the ex spouse gets the money depends on if he or she requests it and the court grants it.  The percentage of the money awarded is also negotiable.  So no, if you are a military spouse and you get a divorce, you aren't necessarily going to get part of your ex's retirement pay (if he or she is entitled to it).  You have to ask for the money and it has to be awarded to you.

I have also often heard many people refer to the 10-10 rule regarding this law.  A lot of spouses think that if they've been married to their ex for ten years of his or her time in military service, it means they automatically get part of the retirement pay.  What the 10-10 rule does is allow DFAS to pay a former spouse directly if he or she was married to the former servicemember for at least ten years during ten years of the servicemember's time in the military.

It does not mean, as many people assume, that the retirement pay is automatically granted, nor does it mean that one must be married to someone in the military for at least ten years to get a portion of retirement pay.  A person could be married to a servicemember for one day and still ask for a portion of their retirement pay.  They might not be able to justify getting the money, but they can still ask.  If the ex spouse was married to the servicemember for less than ten years, they can still get part of the retirement pay.  Enforcement of the order may be more difficult since DFAS wouldn't be sending it directly.  The divorced couple would have to work it out the logistics of getting the money amongst themselves.

I was a bit shocked by the woman's comment on the article about retiring abroad.  She really is under the impression that she's *entitled* to half of her ex husband's retirement pay.  I'm afraid that she is likely shit out of luck.  I can't emphasize it enough.  If you're getting a divorce, it's best to consult a lawyer and get advice from someone who knows what they're doing.  Of course, since Bill's ex does not get any of his retirement pay, I guess I'm glad she drew up their divorce papers on her own.  She ultimately screwed herself and I'm glad of it.

It's not that I don't empathize with military spouses, either.  I was one myself; at this point, I do not have a real career; and if Bill and I ever divorce, I will probably ask for a portion of his retirement pay.  But I don't think we will get divorced because we truly love being with each other and are very committed.

On another topic...  Today, I became aware of a scary Web site that is offering a lot of information about people for free.  I checked it myself and found Bill and me listed and associated with Bill's ex family.  I know a lot of sites do this; they basically get information from public sources of information.  What is troubling about this site is that it's more detailed than the others I've seen and since the information is offered for free, there is no incentive to keep someone from spying.

I know there are a lot of sites out there that already do this stuff.  The difference is, they charge a fee. If there is no fee and it costs nothing for the search, what is to stop someone from spying all day?  It's something to think about.  I opted Bill and me out of their database, but who knows if they'll actually remove us.


  1. What is the informtion service? i'd like to opt out of their database as well, if it works. DM me the info at Twitter if necessary. Thanks.

    1. I linked to the blog post and the actual site in my post.


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