Can an Ex-Spouse Claim Military Retirement Benefits?

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Military Divorce
This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.
Can an Ex-Spouse Claim Military Retirement Benefits

Military divorces are different from civilian divorces in a number of ways, particularly when it comes to something called military retirement benefits. To learn more about whether an ex-spouse can claim military retirement benefits, read Charlotte Christian Law’s blog.

What are Military Retirement Benefits?

Your military retirement benefits refer to the assistance you receive after you leave the military service. Benefits can include pension, medical care, education, and more. You can find out more about your benefits by visiting the United States Department of Veterans Affairs website.

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How do Spouses Claim Military Retirement Benefits?

Under the law, spouses and ex-spouses can receive military retirement benefits. Retired military spouses can receive healthcare, education, survivors pension, and employment, among other benefits. Current spouses can learn more by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs online.

According to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, ex-spouses can also receive benefits from the military. However, these benefits fall under different guidelines, and are subject to other parameters.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act offers certain benefits to former military spouses depending on both the length of the marriage and service in the military. At a minimum, you must have been married at least ten years to qualify for this act.

There are three types of rules that fall under this act. To receive full benefits, you must pass the 20/20/20 test. To pass, you must have been married for at least 20 years, the military member must have served 20 years, and those years must overlap by 20 years.

You can also receive benefits under the 20/20/15 rule, which requires the length of the marriage and of the service to be 20 years with a 15 year overlap. Lastly, you can receive a few benefits under the 10/10/10 rule – 10 years of marriage, 10 years of service, and 10 years of overlap.

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Can Ex-Spouses Claim Military Retirement Benefits?

Yes, ex-spouses can claim military retirement benefits as long as they pass one of the three tests set by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act. However, you may still be eligible for benefits under Alabama law if you do not meet the 10/10/10 rule.

Stipulations within the 10/10/10 Rule

The United States Military has put some parameters around how you can qualify for the 10/10/10 rule. The ten years of service excludes time spent in AWOL (absent without leave) status, time incarcerated, or time lost due to an injury caused by misconduct.

Additionally, if you haven’t reached ten years of marriage, service, or overlap, you can still receive benefits if Alabama decides that you have an entitlement to a portion of retired pay. The difference of not meeting the 10/10/10 is that the payment will be made by the service member, not by the Department of Defense.

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How Can Ex-Spouses Claim Military Retirement Benefits?

To claim military retirement benefits, you must go through the court system. The court has a number of requirements that you must meet in order for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to process the request.

Process for Claiming Military Retirement Benefits

Before claiming military retirement benefits, it’s crucial to speak with an experienced military divorce attorney. A lawyer familiar with both the military and the court system can help you understand your rights when it comes to military retirement benefits.

After speaking with an attorney, you must meet three stipulations to proceed with your claim:

  • SCRA: To meet the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, you must indicate that the member’s rights were respected.
  • Jurisdiction: The civilian spouse and the military spouse must be under Alabama’s jurisdiction. Jurisdiction for military divorces refers to residence, domicile, or consent to jurisdiction.
  • Amount to Divide: The court must indicate the percentage share or dollar amount awarded to the spouse.

Once you’ve met these requirements and gone through the court system, you can apply directly through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. You can find out more information on the DFAS website.

Can I Prevent my Ex-Spouse from Claiming Benefits?

While there is no Federal law that automatically gives your ex-spouse military retirement benefits, you cannot defy a state order that entitles them to benefits. However, you can modify and appeal the decision if you believe that the order is wrong.

Speak with an Experienced Military Divorce Attorney

Navigating the court system in a military divorce can easily become complex. To ensure that your rights are respected, it’s crucial to speak with an experienced military divorce attorney. An experienced attorney will help you through this difficult process.

At Charlotte Christian Law, we are here to help you through your divorce. We will help you understand how to claim your military retirement benefits and finalize your divorce. We will be by your side every step of the way.

Connect with us online at or by phone at (256) 859-7277. We will protect you from an unfair divorce, and we’ll make sure that your today is better than your yesterday.

Call or text (256) 859-7277 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form

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