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Question and Answer: Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act

  1. The court awarded me 50% of my former spouse's retired pay which had accrued as of the date of our divorce. Why do I need to get a clarifying order to have my award enforced under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA)?
    Without a clarifying order, there is no way to determine the amount of what your award should be under the Act. Military retired pay is an entitlement based on the service member's rank and number of years of creditable service at the time of retirement. It is paid on a monthly basis and as such is not a fund which can be valued or divided as of some point in time, either before or after the member's retirement. Thus, it is not comparable to a company's private retirement plan, which can be identified as a specific amount and can be divided as of a particular date. The USFSPA requires that an award of a portion of a member's retired pay as property must be expressed in dollars or as a percentage of disposable retired pay. 10 U.S.C. 1408(a)(2)(C). Therefore, a clarifying order would be necessary in those cases where the award is not so expressed.
  2. My award of a portion of the member's military retired pay as property is expressed as a formula with the numerator as the number of years we were married while the member performed military service creditable for retirement. I was told I had to get a clarifying order because this "number" was not provided in the court order. Why is this the case when our marriage and divorce dates, and the member's service entry date, were given in the court order?
    An award of military retired pay as property expressed as a formula or hypothetical retired pay amount may be enforced under the USFSPA without a clarifying order only if the requirements of the proposed regulations (60 Fed. Reg. 17,507 (1995)(to be codified at 32 CFR pt. 63)(proposed April 6, 1995) are met. With regard to an award expressed as a formula, the only number supplied by DFAS will be the number of years of creditable service. All other information must be contained in the court ordered formula. With regard to a hypothetical for payment of a retired pay amount, the award must be based on at least 15 years of creditable service, and the only information DFAS will supply is the date of retirement. All other information, such as the member's hypothetical rank or years of creditable service at hypothetical retirement, must be contained in the court order.
  3. Why does it take so long for me to begin to receive payments under the Act after I apply?
    The USFSPA requires that your payments must begin not later than 90 days after effective service of your application for payments on the designated agent. 10 U.S.C. 1408(d)(1). This 90 day requirement gives DFAS enough time to process your application, and provide the member with the notice that the Act requires. The member has 30 days from the date the notice was mailed to provide evidence as to why payments should not begin. No payments can be made until after the 30 day notice period. Also, since payments of military retired pay are only made once each month, the commencement of your payments must be coordinated with the monthly retired pay cycle.

  4. I applied for enforcement of both my child support and retired pay property awards under USFSPA. My application for child support was honored, but my application for property payments was not. I was told that the reason was that the court lacked jurisdiction over the member. What's the problem? My divorce decree stated that the court had jurisdiction over the member.
    The USFSPA has a separate jurisdiction requirement for enforcement of property awards. The Act states that the court must have had jurisdiction over the member by reason of (A) his residence, other than because of military assignment, in the territorial jurisdiction of the court, (B) his domicile in the territorial jurisdiction of the court, or (C) his consent to the jurisdiction of the court. 10 U.S.C. 1408(c)(4). The court may have had jurisdiction over an absent member by reason of some state statute, but that type of jurisdiction may not be the type that legally satisfies the requirement for purposes of the USFSPA. This special jurisdiction requirement does not apply to enforcement of alimony and child support awards.

  5. I was married to my former spouse for 8 years while my former spouse was performing military service creditable for retirement. I was awarded a portion of my former spouse's military retired pay as property in our divorce decree. My application for property payments under the USFSPA was turned down, even though my former spouse waived the ten year requirement in our divorce decree. Why?
    In order for a division of retired pay as property award to be enforced under the USFSPA, the former spouse must have been married to the military member for ten years or more during which the member performed at least 10 years of service creditable in determining the member's eligibility for retirement. 10 U.S.C. 1408(d)(2). This is a requirement to receive payments under the USFSPA, which cannot be waived by either party. However, retired members may always make the payment themselves. This requirement does not apply to enforcement of awards for alimony or child support.
  6. My former spouse has been receiving military retired pay for several years, and has not paid me any of my portion of his retired pay as a property award. Can I collect any of the arrearages under USFSPA?
    No, the USFSPA does not provide for the collection of arrearages of retired pay as property or alimony. Payments under the Act are prospective only 5 CFR 63.6.(h)(10)

    However, child support arrearages set forth in the pertinent court order may now be collected under the Act. 10 U.S.C. 1408(d)(6). Regulations to implement this statute have not been published yet. Alimony and child support arrearages may also be collectible by garnishment under a different statute, 42 U.S.C. 659. A former spouse should consult his or her attorney for additional assistance regarding garnishments. This website also contains information regarding this topic.

  7. What are the current requirements for service of documents, and certification of documents?
    Court orders no longer need to be served by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. They may now be served by facsimile or electronic transmission or by regular mail. Court orders must be copies of documents certified by the clerk of courts as to their authenticity within 90 days of effective service. Photocopies of certified documents are acceptable. Certified copies of court orders to enforce child support under USFSPA need not have been certified within 90 days of service.

    Last updated: March 12, 1999 at 07:17

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