The answer to the question of whether a former spouse’s retired pay payments can be stopped is, “it depends.” The Dep’t. of Defense regulation governing this subject matter states the following:
- “Unless the court order specifies otherwise, payments will stop upon [DFAS’s] receipt of notice of the death of either party. Payments will be prorated for the month of death of either party.” See Note 1, below.
- “Unless the court order specifies otherwise, retired pay award payments will not stop upon [DFAS’s] receipt of notice of the former spouse’s remarriage.” See Note 2, below.
- “If [DFAS] is served with an order staying payments, [DFAS] will stop the payments until served with an order indicating that the former spouse’s payments are to resume.” See Note 3, below.
- “If [DFAS] has already started payments and is served with documentation showing than an appeal of the order has been filed within the forum state’s appeal timeframe, payments will stop. [DFAS] will not recoup any payments already issued.” See Note 4, below.
- “A former spouse may stop payments under the [Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act or USFSPA] by sending [DFAS] a letter with [the spouse’s notarized signature] withdrawing their application for payments under the USFSPA.” See Note 5, below.
The question I’m asked the most pertains to #2, above, whether former spouse payments stop automatically upon remarriage. The answer is, “no,” unless the court order specifies remarriage as an event that “triggers” termination of the former spouse retired pay payments. In my experience, there is slim chance a court would render such an order, absent agreement of the parties. Also, I’ve never seen #5 occur, where the former spouse voluntarily terminates payments, absent some type of “buy-out” agreement between the parties. I have negotiated a few buy-out agreements, so I can say that scenario is possible. Speak with a qualified military divorce attorney if you have questions about possibly stopping former spouse retired pay payments or negotiating a buy-out agreement.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC. The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world. The firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters.
Note 1: Dep’t. of Defense Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R, Volume 7B, Military Retired Pay Policies and Procedures – Retired Pay, Chapter 29, Former Spouse Payments From Retired Pay, Paragraph 291202, Termination and Suspension of Retired Pay Payments, Subparagraph A.
Note 2: Id. at Subparagraph B.
Note 3: Id. at Subparagraph C.
Note 4: Id. at Subparagraph D.
Note 5: Id. at Subparagraph E.