The Benefits for the Wife of a Veteran If Divorced
By Roger Thorne J.D.
Updated October 31, 2018
What benefits a wife of a veteran receives in a divorce is a complicated issue governed by a range of federal and state laws. Divorce cases are governed by state laws, with state divorce courts deciding any issues in the cases. However, federal law grants state courts the right to divide military benefits as long as specific conditions are met. Though these laws apply to both spouses, always talk to a qualified divorce attorney in your area whenever you need advice on military divorces.
One of the key issues in any divorce is the division of marital assets. In military divorces, the question of whether or not military retirement pay is subject to distribution is a key issue. Passed in 1982, the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, commonly referred to as the USFSPA, is a federal law that allows state courts to divide retirement pay as a part of marital assets. You qualify for military retirement benefits under the USFSPA if you were married to your husband for at least 10 years, and if he spent at least 10 years in the military. According to the American Bar Association, state courts can always divide retirement pay in divorces, but you can only receive pay from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service if you first prove you meet the "10/10" requirement.
Former spouses are also entitled to health care privileges after divorcing a military husband, with limitations. Sections 1072 and 1068a of 10 United States Code extend health benefits to former spouses of any active military member based on the length of the marriage and the length of military service. For example, if you and your husband were married for 20 years and your husband spent at least 15 of those years in the military, you are entitled to full health care benefits. However, getting remarried terminates your health care privileges. Further, getting a job that provides health care makes you ineligible for military health care, but these privileges get reinstated if ever lose employer-paid health care.
Divorced military spouses also get access to commissary, theater and other base facilities as long as specific conditions are met. Chapters 53 and 54 of 10 U.S.C. detail these privileges, which have similar provisions to the health care benefits offered to military spouses. For example, if you and your husband were married for at least 20 years and your husband spent 20 of those years in the military, you receive full commissary and exchange benefits and can use any base facilities open to dependents. However, if your spouse only spent 15 years in the military, or less than 15 of those years overlapped with your marriage, you are not entitled to any commissary or exchange benefits.
- The American Bar Association: Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
- The Judge Advocate General of the United States Air Force: Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act
- Cornell University Legal Information Institute: 10 U.S.C. 1408
- Divorcenet.com: Benefits of Former Spouses of Military Personnel
Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.