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How do you divide military retirement pay in a divorce?

The need for information about issues unique to military divorce is underscored by the presence of various bases throughout the state, such as Selfridge Air Force Base, Camp Grayling, Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Fort Custer Training Center, the Michigan National Guard Armory, and others. Accordingly, today's post explores the patchwork of federal and state laws that divorcing military couples in Michigan must navigate.

Military divorce is a combination of federal and state laws

Keep in mind that many aspects of a military divorce are governed by state law, such as a spouse’s right to his or her share of the marital estate. Michigan divorce courts apply an equitable standard to any proposed property division agreements. Essentially, each spouse must account for his or her fair share of joint debts, and is entitled to a fair portion of marital property and any increases in marital assets, such as securities. That standard does not necessarily require a 50-50 split of the marital estate. Check out our website to learn more about our Michigan divorce and family law practice.

The marital estate includes military retirement assets

The marital estate also includes retirement assets. However, if a spouse was a member of the military and had military pensions or retirement plans, federal law is triggered. Specifically, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA), 10 U.S.C. 1408, authorizes state courts in Michigan to distribute military retired pay to a former spouse. The law also provides a procedure for enforcement.

It is up to the state court to determine what portion of a member’s retired pay will be distributed to the former spouse. The court may describe that portion as a fixed dollar amount or as a percentage. The final court order will describe that arrangement. USFSPA then provides the mechanism for following through on that arrangement. Check out our website to learn more about our Michigan divorce and family law practice.

Source: Defense Finance and Accounting Service, “Former Spouses’ Protection Act,” copyright 2017, U.S. Department of Defense

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