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Navigating military divorces and retirement benefits in Texas

On Behalf of | Dec 21, 2022 | Divorce

Serving in the military can come with some benefits like pension plans, health insurance and retirement benefits. If you got married before joining the armed forces or while in the military, according to Texas law, your spouse has a right to part of your military retirement benefits after a divorce.

How military divorce works in Texas

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) governs the division of military retirement benefits during divorce proceedings in Texas. Under this law, the court may consider that part of a service member’s “disposable retired pay” is subject to a division after divorce.

To qualify for this, you must have been together for at least ten years, during which time you were on active duty status. This is known as the “length of service” requirement. If you were not married for at least ten years during a period of active duty, your spouse might still be eligible if you earned the military retirement benefits through creditable service that began during your marriage and continued for at least ten years after the date of divorce or annulment.

The court will typically determine what portion of the pension is marital property and order you to pay your spouse a specific amount from each paycheck until they receive their total share. The court must then issue a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which will direct payment from Disposable Retired Pay directly to your former spouse by your branch of service.

It’s important to note that the court doesn’t automatically divide these benefits between former spouses after the dissolution of their marriage. Unless a court orders otherwise, you’ll receive the full amount of your pension upon retirement.

How you may divorce

Typically, the state allows you to take control of your divorce if you can by making all decisions about your split on your own, only for the judge to notarize it to make it official. However, if this is impossible, then you may have to go through a contested military divorce to battle out your rights.

If you’re going through a military divorce in Texas, it’s important to be aware of the laws surrounding your retirement benefits and how division works. By having an understanding of the law, you can better protect yourself and any assets that may become subject to division upon dissolution of marriage.