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How does USFSPA work?

Basically, in a divorce, USFSPA mandates that the Defense Finance and Accounting (DFAS) will directly pay a former spouse’s share of the military retirement pay if there is at least 10 years of marriage overlapping 10 years of creditable military service. This is the Ten-Year (10/10) rule. Some state courts divide the military retirement pay for marriages of less than 10 years. In this case, however, the military spouse has to pay the former spouse directly, rather than the DFAS making the payments.

Let’s say a couple were married nine years before they divorced, and for five of those year the husband was on active duty in the Air Force. In other words, the wife was a military spouse for five years.

The Ten-Year Rule states that if a court order to divide military retirement pay as property is obtained, then it may be directly paid from the military pay center to the former spouse, provided that the couple were married at least ten years during which the military spouse was in the service at least ten years.

In the above example, the military spouse was not in the service ten years and the couple were not married ten years, so she cannot get the military pay center to pay her portion of the military retirement pay directly. She must obtain her payments directly from her former spouse, in much the same way as if they were both civilians.