While some divorces are amicable, couples that have decided to end their marriage often are angry and upset with one another. In some cases, this may lead to conduct that is intended to punish the other spouse for a perceived wrong or simply to move the process of disentangling each party’s lives from one another.
When a military member decides to end his or her marriage, one of the main issues that is often contested is how the marital property will be divided. Divorce is governed by state law, and Colorado courts divide marital property based upon a legal principle known as “equitable distribution.” Under equitable distribution, property is divided in a way that the court determines is fair – which may or may not be the same as equal.
In a military divorce, there are often significant assets that complicate the way in which assets will be divided. Individuals who are in the military often accrue significant benefits throughout the course of their careers, including significant retired pay that can ensure their financial stability after retirement. In many cases, a military member’s pension is their most valuable asset, so both spouses and member themselves are often concerned as to how a divorce may affect their pension.
Federal Law Allows State Courts to Divide a Pension
A federal law known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) allows state courts to apply state law in dividing a military pension. As a result, a court may divide the pension, award the pension solely to the military member, or order the payment of cash or other assets to the non-military spouse in lieu of an interest in the pension.
Direct Pay May Be An Option
For people who have been awarded a share of a military member’s pension, it may be possible to receive payments for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). In order to do so, the following requirements must be met:
- The period during which an appeal may be filed has expired
- The military member is in the process of retiring or has retired
- The military member served for at least 10 years and the parties were married for at least 10 years during his or her military service
The provisions of the USFSPA do not allow DFAS to pay more than 50 percent of a military member’s pension to another party pursuant to a court order, so spouses of military members who have been awarded more than half of a pension will need to pursue their award from an alternative source.
Contact a Denver Military Divorce Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Options
If you or your spouse a member of the United States military and you are considering seeking a divorce, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Since 1982, Denver divorce attorney Harold Faletti has been helping protect the legal rights of husbands and wives who have chosen to end their marriages. To schedule a consultation with Mr. Faletti, contact us online or call our office today at 303-438-8477.