Each Denville divorce attorney at our firm is grateful for the exceptional sacrifices that military members and their spouses make to protect our country. Even when marriages do not survive the challenges of military life, divorced military spouses still deserve certain retirement benefits available to uniformed service members.
The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) provides states with the option of dividing the disposable retired pay of military members with divorced spouses. NJ supports these benefits, but military members and their spouses need to understand the rules — preferably prior to the establishment of a divorce settlement.
NJ Law Permits Direct Payments of Military Retirement Benefits to Divorce Military Spouses
Provided that the military member resides in NJ, the state courts have some latitude in the distribution of military retirement benefits to divorced spouses. These benefits pertain only to disposable retired pay, which is the total monthly pay after deducting disability pay and other financial obligations held by the service member.
However, USFSPA grants the states with the authority to arrange for direct payments from the state, based on the following requirements:
- It applies to marriages 10 years or longer.
- That period must coincide with the military member performing at least 10 years of creditable service.
- Orders can be expressed as dollars or as a percentage of the service member’s disposable retired pay.
- Payments end when the terms of the court order are satisfied or when the retired service member or military spouse dies.
- Disability pensions are not considered to be marital assets.
NJ law provides for direct payments within the federal parameters.
A Number of Considerations Can Help or Hinder Benefits for Divorced Military Spouses
While the USFSPA makes it possible for divorced military spouses apply for benefits, the legal process can be complicated if the spouses fail to make appropriate arrangements during the divorce process.
Similarly, other issues can exist when the divorce terms do not comply with the USFSPA rules, such as might be the case if the court awards more than the maximum percentage of disposable retired pay set by the USFSPA.
Additionally, unless military members purchase survivor benefit plans while still married, their spouses’ retirement income benefits can end based on a period determined by the NJ Courts — or upon the death of the service member.
The key times to help protect the rights of military spouses are during the marriage and during divorce settlement negotiations. It is essential to seek support from a lawyer with a detailed understanding of state and military rules as they pertain to divorce and other family issues.
Call Riordan & Associates, LLC or use our convenient online contact form to learn how we address special issues like these to help protect the entire family.