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Congress considering change to military divorce rules

When most Florida couples end their unions, any retirement savings that have been earned or accumulated by either spouse are subject to division. For some couples, negotiating that division is a significant portion of the property division process. Once the terms have been reached and the divorce made final, any retirement savings that will be divided are usually removed from one party's account and rolled over into the other's.

For military families, a different approach is taken. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act provides guidelines for the division of retirement benefits. Under that law, military spouses who go through divorce are entitled to a share of the retirement savings earned by their former husbands or wives. The difference is that the value of those savings is not divided at the time of divorce. The retirement account is allowed to grow over time until the service member is ready to retire and make use of those funds.

Many people criticize the USFSPA, and assert that the way that the law is currently written allows a former spouse to enjoy a share of the increased value of retirement savings when the increase took place after the marriage ended. This approach requires the service member to hand over a portion of assets earned after the union was no longer in effect. A recently proposed amendment to the USFSPA received bipartisan support in Congress.

As the issue moves forward, it is possible that Congress could take steps to bring military divorce law more in line with that of civilians. The change might be unpopular among military spouses who are considering divorce. However, many people feel that the men and women who serve their country in Florida and across the nation deserve to keep all of the retirement benefits that they earn after a divorce has taken place.

Source: heraldnet.com, "Panel votes to end pay-benefit slide, tweak ex-spouse law", Tom Philpott, May 6, 2016

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