The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act protects certain benefits for past spouses of military members. For example, under this law, exes can claim a portion of their former spouse’s commissary benefits, medical care and retirement pay. 

Enacted in 1982, according to the Congressional Research Service, the USFSPA provides a degree of financial protection to former spouses of servicemembers. But there are certain limitations on what this act can and cannot provide for previous spouses. 

What this act does

Under the USFSPA, the courts can divide military retired pay between the former spouse of the servicemember and the servicemember. In some circumstances, the government can give this payment directly to the former spouse. 

Former spouses may be eligible to receive healthcare at certain treatment facilities run by the government because of the provisions in this act. They may also have access to commissaries and exchanges run by the military following the divorce process. 

What this act does not do

Although the USFSPA does allow the court to divide military pay, this is not a requirement during a military divorce, and the act does not establish a formula for the division of this pay. This act also does not establish prerequisites for the length of the marriage lasting during military service or put a required percentage of disposable retired pay the court can reward to a former military spouse. 

The USFSPA mainly prevents the court system from viewing the military member’s retired pay as their sole property during the divorce process. This applies unless the court already has jurisdiction over the servicemember because of their prior consent, residence or other reason.