Military Divorce: What Might Suspend Payment of Former Spouse Retired Pay

Recently, I was contacted by a Former Spouse trying to understand a letter she received from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) informing that payment of her Former Spouse retired pay, which she’d received regularly for years, had been suspended.  She’d called DFAS and was told the suspension was related to matters that were the retired Servicemember’s personal business.  No further information was provided.  She had no contact with her ex-spouse and no idea of issues in his life.

Sadly, I informed her that the Secretary of the Military Department concerned may order a retiree’s retired pay to be suspended after determining that1:

  1. A felony warrant has been issued against the absent Servicemember by the United States (e.g. flight to avoid prosecution or giving testimony or violation of the International Parental Kidnapping Act (which didn’t apply in her case)); or
  2. The Servicemember is outside the United States and has willfully remained outside the United States to avoid criminal prosecution for more than 30 consecutive days subsequent to issue of a felony warrant.

Suspension continues until or unless the Secretary of the Military Department orders that payment shall resume.  Of significance, payment of any Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) premiums, generally, will be deducted from accumulated retired pay if and when payment of retired pay is ordered to resume.  DFAS should be contacted for specific questions on the SBP status and premiums.

In the end, I couldn’t help her beyond providing an explanation that made sense under the circumstances.  Suspension of payments of retired pay is controlled by Federal law, not state court orders.

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 – See Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R, Volume 7B, Military Retired Pay Policies and Procedures – Retired Pay, Chapter 13, Suspension of Pay, Paragraph 130203, Retired Pay Suspended by Secretary of the Military Department Concerned, and Paragraph 130503, Survivor Annuity Deductions.