Military Divorce

Military Divorce

When a member of the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard files for divorce, numerous aspects of the divorce can be impacted by state and federal law. Military divorces may be further complicated by jurisdictional issues when one or both parties maintained multiple residences.

The length of the marriage and the number of years of creditable military service are two factors that can determine spousal benefits. Child support and child custody decisions are two important issues that can be complicated by unique timing and circumstances related to members of the military.

Attorney for Military Divorce in Houston, TX

Are you or your spouse a member of the United States Armed Forces who is planning on filing for divorce in Southeast Texas? You should make sure that you contact [firm] as soon as possible.

Houston lawyer Michael Sydow represents clients in communities all over Fort Bend County and Harris County.

Call [phone] right now to have our attorney review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free initial consultation.


Overview of Military Divorce in Harris County


Back to top

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act in Texas Military Divorce

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is established under Title 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501-597b. The stated purposes of the SCRA, formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940, are:

  • to provide for, strengthen, and expedite the national defense through protection extended by this Act to servicemembers of the United States to enable such persons to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation; and
  • to provide for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect the civil rights of servicemembers during their military service.

The SCRA provides certain protections those on active duty, Reservists, and members of the National Guard. A servicemember is defined as a member of the uniformed services, which Title 10 U.S.C. § 101(a)(5) defines as meaning the armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard), the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service.

The term dependent as it relates to a servicemember means:

  • the servicemember’s spouse;
  • the servicemember’s child, as defined in 38 U.S.C. § 101(4); or
  • an individual for whom the servicemember provided more than one-half of the individual’s support for 180 days immediately preceding an application for relief under this Act.

The SCRA can prevent a dependent from pursuing certain legal actions against deployed military personnel without court orders. When a servicemember is not actively deployed and does not answer a divorce petition or complaint, the SCRA requires the dependent to obtain an Affidavit of Non-Military Service before filing for divorce.

Legal proceedings can be stayed for whatever period of time a servicemember is on active duty and for 60 days thereafter, and the SCRA also prevents active duty servicemembers from being held in default for failure to respond in proceedings.


Back to top

Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act in Harris County Military Divorce

The United States Supreme Court ruled in McCarty v. McCarty, 453 U.S. 210 (1981) that the former spouse of a military member or retiree could not be awarded any share of that member’s or retiree’s retirement pay as a part of a divorce property settlement in a community property state because federal law did not authorize the treatment of military retired pay as divisible property in such a settlement. The following year, Congress enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) in response to the Supreme Court decision. 

Under the USFSPA, state courts can treat disposable military retired pay as divisible property in divorce cases. One frequently misunderstood provision of the USFSPA is the “10/10 Rule,” which governs the manner in which the former spouse of a servicemember can receive court-ordered retirement pay.

The 10/10 Rule has no bearing on a former spouse’s eligibility for retirement pay. Under the 10/10 Rule, a former spouse is eligible for direct payment of retired pay from the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) if he or she was married to a servicemember or retiree at least 10 years, during which the servicemember or retiree served at least 10 years of creditable military service.

Some other important provisions of the USFSPA include:

  • Direct payments by the uniformed services of up to 50% of a member’s or former member’s disposable retired pay to the former spouse if the settlement involved is in compliance with the USFSPA;
  • State courts can treat disposable military retired pay as divisible property in divorce cases;
  • Enforcement of alimony and child support;
  • Which former spouses are eligible to secure access to military-sponsored medical care benefits, commissary, and exchange privileges; and
  • Military members or retired members can voluntarily designate former spouses as beneficiaries under the military Survivor Benefit Plan.

Military Benefits for Former Spouses in Houston, TX

The number of years the marriage lasted, the number of years of military service, and the number of years the marriage overlapped with the military service are important factors that can impact the military benefits a spouse of a military servicemember or retiree may remain eligible for following a divorce. Two key provisions of federal law that dictate the benefits spouses are eligible for are the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 Rules.

Under the 20/20/20 Rule, former spouses classified as dependents are entitled to all military benefits and installation privileges, including Tricare health care coverage (with some restrictions), commissary, military exchanges. The 20/20/20 Rule is found in Title 10 U.S.C. § 1072(2)(F), which establishes that a dependent, with respect to a member or former member of a uniformed service, means the un-remarried former spouse of a member or former member who:

  • on the date of the final decree of divorce, dissolution, or annulment, had been married to the member or former member for a period of at least 20 years during which period the member or former member performed at least 20 years of service which is creditable in determining that member’s or former member’s eligibility for retired or retainer pay, or equivalent pay; and
  • does not have medical coverage under an employer-sponsored health plan.

20/20/20 benefits end if the former spouse remarries, although some benefits can be reinstated if the subsequent marriage ends due to death, divorce, or annulment.

The 20/20/15 Rule refers to Title 10 U.S.C. §§ 1072(2)(G) and 1072(2)(H). Under Title 10 U.S.C. § 1072(2)(G), a dependent—with respect to a member or former member of a uniformed service—means a person who is the unremarried former spouse of a member or former member who:

  • performed at least 20 years of service which is creditable in determining the member or former member’s eligibility for retired or retainer pay, or equivalent pay;
  • on the date of the final decree of divorce, dissolution, or annulment before April 1, 1985, had been married to the member or former member for a period of at least 20 years, at least 15 of which, but less than 20 of which, were during the period the member or former member performed service creditable in determining the member or former member’s eligibility for retired or retainer pay; and
  • does not have medical coverage under an employer-sponsored health plan.

Under the 20/20/15 Rule, former spouses classified as dependents are eligible for Tricare health insurance coverage for one year from the date of divorce or annulment, provided that they are not eligible for employer-sponsored health coverage through their employment or have opted not to use such a plan. Title 10 U.S.C. § 1072(2)(H) states that a dependent—with respect to a member or former member of a uniformed service—means a person who would qualify as a dependent under Title 10 U.S.C. § 1072(2)(G) but for the fact that the date of the final decree of divorce, dissolution, or annulment of the person is on or after April 1, 1985, except that the term does not include the person after the end of the one-year period beginning on the date of that final decree.


Back to top

Texas Military Divorce Resources

SCRA — The Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) SCRA website supports laws and privileges related to active duty Service members and are free to the public. You can use this website to submit a single record request to obtain a report certifying Title 10 active duty status for provisions under SCRA. The website also allows you to submit multiple record requests of multiple individuals (or multiple dates for a single individual) to determine Title 10 active duty status for provisions under SCRA.

Military Benefits for Former Spouses: Legislation and Policy Issues — The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress that provides policy and legal analysis to committees and members of both the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate. View the full text of this March 6, 2017 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report discussing the USFSPA, including what the USFSPA authorizes, survivor benefit plans, and other benefits. The report also discusses implementation of existing law and related measures.


Back to top

Find a Military Divorce Attorney in Houston, TX

If you or your spouse is a member of the United States Armed Forces filing for divorce in Southeast Texas, it is in your best interest to retain experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. [firm] helps individuals in Houston and many areas surrounding Harris County and Fort Bend County.

Michael Sydow is an experienced attorney in Houston who is a member of both the Houston Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association. You can have our lawyer provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call [phone] or complete an online contact form to receive a free, no obligation consultation.


Back to top