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Retirement benefits, the SBP and military divorces

Every divorce has its unique matters. When facing divorce, most individuals have many concerns and questions about the future, including in relation to financial matters. You may know that family law rules allow the divorce process to include pension plans, 401(k)s and the like in the property division analysis.

In a military divorce, there are a few nuances to the law that seem to cause confusion. Take for instance military retirement benefits. A civilian spouse is not automatically entitled to a part of a service member's retirement pay upon divorce.

The Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act authorities state family courts to consider retirement pay as marital property subject to division, but the federal law does not require division. The USFSPA limits direct payments to the former spouse by the federal government to 50 percent of disposable pay.

The Survivor Benefit Plan is also addressed under federal law. An SBP is an insurance product that pays an annuity to a surviving spouse of a service member. In general, a spouse's coverage is terminated in the divorce. But, federal law does not preclude addressing the annuity in a divorce

A member of the military who is facing divorce should consider seeking the assistance of a Colorado family law attorney who is knowledgeable in the nuances that pertain to military divorces to protect rights. Retirement benefits and the SBP are often areas of concern that need to be handled properly to protect rights. In military divorces involving minor children, custody issues are often paramount. Colorado law has laws to help ensure that an absence from the state due to deployment is not used against military personal in custody issues.

Source: U.S. Army Support Activity, "Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act," Accessed December 5, 2014

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