Military Divorce: Myth #1, “Marriage Must Have Lasted 10 Years”

This is the first in a series of blogs that will explore common myths in military divorce.  In this installment, we’ll look at the widely-held belief that “the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years before a former spouse can get a share of the servicemember’s retired pay.”  False.

This myth stems from a misinterpretation of the “10/10 rule” in the Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA).  The USFSPA requires that the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years, and overlapped at least 10 years of military service, before DFAS can pay the court-ordered share of military retired pay to the former spouse.  In simple terms, the 10/10 rule is a rule of administrative convenience.  It prevents DFAS from participating in the administration and enforcement of numerous “small dollar” awards.

All is not lost for the former spouse when the marriage lasted less than 10 years, or overlapped less than 10 years of military service.   Yet, things just got harder.  The court’s award remains valid, but the former spouse must get payment directly from the retired servicemember.  This challenges the former spouse in two ways.  First, the former spouse must know where to locate and contact the servicemember at time of retirement and thereafter.  Second, the former spouse must ensure his or her share of military retired pay gets computed properly.  A qualified military divorce lawyer can address these two concerns in the divorce decree to help lessen the challenge.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm.  The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.