The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act: A Practitioner's Guide

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American Journal of Family Law


uniform services former spouses protection act, usfspa, military, pensions, marital property


The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act authorizes a division of military retirement pay in a divorce proceeding. The Act overturned a 1981 U.S. Supreme Court case, McCarty v. McCarty, which held that a state judge was preempted from treating a military member's retirement pay as property in a community property division.

Two kinds of concerns have arisen as a result of the USFSPA legislation. One concern is expressed by military personnel who feel that the legislation has gone too far and now unfairly penalizes the very persons who put their lives on the line for their country. A second concern, voiced by former spouses, is that they are not receiving the monies to which they believe they are entitled. They seem neither to understand the opportunities or limits of the law, nor to know the practical steps to assure that the USFSPA applications are processed successfully and expeditiously. Too often, it seems that their attorneys are also not as well informed as they should be. This article deals with the second concern, seeking to shed light upon the Act's complexities and to offer suggestions to practitioners who seek to invoke its provisions.



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