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Movement afoot to revise military divorce alimony law

Divorces can be complicated intersections of emotions and law. As many of us know in San Antonio, things can get even more complicated when a divorce involves a member of the U.S. military.

One of the areas in which military divorces can be more complicated is spousal maintenance. Under current law, former spouses of military members can in some cases be granted up to half of the military member's retirement pay as a form of alimony (spousal maintenance). And those payments can last a lifetime.

Back in 1982, President Reagan signed into law the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, which allows states to consider military retirement pay as marital property to be divided in half when a couple divorces.

Critics of the law argue that military members shouldn't have to pay up to half of their retirement earned with a minimum of 20 years in service. They note, too, that "retirement" is a relative term when it comes to the military; they're not retired in the civilian sense of the word, but are rather placed on reserve status.

Critics of the law state, too, that virtually no other former federal employees are at risk of having half their retirement pay given to former spouses -- including the members of Congress who voted for the law.

The other side of the story comes from those former spouses of members of the military. They argue that they often dedicated themselves to the military as well, following their spouses around the world from deployment to deployment, often in trying circumstances. They argue that they earned a portion of those military pensions.

Anyone facing the prospect of a divorce involving a member of the military should speak with an attorney experienced in this complex area of family law.

Source:, "Military Divorcees Aim to End Lifetime Alimony Rules," Feb. 18, 2013

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