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Military Benefits

Divorce is already a complicated affair. If you were or are a member of the United States military, the process can be even more convoluted. Your military benefits and retirement plan could be affected by divorce proceedings. Washington and federal law states your spouse could be entitled to up to half your military benefits.

Military divorces can be very complex. It’s important that you’re aware of what could happen to your benefits and retirement pay. You could lose a large portion of your retirement assets and your spouse may still have access to your benefits. Don’t hesitate when it comes to your finances. If you are involved in a military divorce, it’s recommended that you contact an experienced attorney. 

Seattle Military Benefits Attorney in Washington

A military divorce is a much more intricate process than a civilian divorce. If you or your spouse was or is a member of the military, then divorce may affect your military retirement or benefits. It’s vital that you act quickly to protect your military assets. To do this call the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson today.

The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson have years of experience in military divorces. We understand both federal and Washington state laws on how military assets are divided. Our attorneys will use our resources and knowledge to build a strong case for you. Call today at (206) 712-2756 to schedule a free consultation. 

Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson accepts clients throughout the greater Seattle area and surrounding communities including Issaquah, Kirkland, Burien and Bellevue.


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Division of Military Benefits in Divorce

In 1982, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA). The USFSPA states that if you are pursuing a military divorce your military retired pay and benefits could be divided based on state laws. Washington is a community property state. This means any shared marital assets, including retirement, is to be distributed by the court.

If you’re pursuing a military divorce your retirement pay can be divided under Washington law. However, in some cases your retirement pay may be determined by the 10/10 provision under USFSPA.  The 10-10 rule states that a spouse is eligible to receive a portion of benefits if:

  • He or she was married to the military service member for at least 10 years; and
  • He or she was married to the military service member for 10 years of service. 

What separates an state asset division in a divorce and the 10-10 rule is that payments are automatic. Your spouse could receive up to 50 percent of retirement pay without any notification. Understand that the 10-10 rule has little bearing on you or your spouse’s eligibility for retirement assets. In most cases, retirement pay is divided under state laws.   

Federal law also has provisions for military benefits such as health care coverage. The 20/20/20 rule states that former spouses are entitled to military benefits if they meet certain criteria. If you are a former spouse of a service man or woman, you may be eligible for military benefits if: 

  • You were married to a military service person for at least 20 years; and
  • During your marriage the former member performed at least 20 years of service; and
  • You don’t have any medical coverage under an employer-sponsored plan.

Under the 20/20/20 rule, you are eligible for most military benefits. It’s important to know that if you remarry the benefits end. However, if your second marriage ends you may be able to have some benefits reinstated.

The 20/20/15 rule also addresses Tricare medical coverage by the military under USFSPA. You may have access to your spouse’s healthcare coverage if you:

  • Were married to a former service member for at least 20 years; and
  • The former service member performed at least 20 years of service; and
  • Your marriage and your spouse’s military service overlapped for 15 years. 

If you meet the criteria above, you are eligible for Tricare health insurance for up to one year from the date of divorce. It’s important to remember that if you have health coverage through your employer, you won’t qualify under the 20/20/15 rule. 


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Washington Military Divorce Laws

USFSPA states military assets can be treated as community property under state law. The provisions for USFSPA are for marriages that lasted 20 years or more. If the marriage lasted for less than 20 years, your marital assets will be divided under state law. 

Washington is a community property state. This means any property accumulated during the marriage could be divided. Community property includes both military benefits and retired military pay. Property that cannot be divided is called separate property. Separate property is any property that was collected before the marriage, given as a gift or inheritance, or was a part of a personal injury settlement. 

Washington law states community property must be divided in a “just and equitable” manner. The courts will divide your assets in whichever way they deem fair. Your spouse could potentially walk away with a larger portion of your assets. If you’re in the military, this can include your Tricare healthcare coverage and military pension.

Listed below are the factors a judge will consider when dividing your or your spouse’s military benefits.

  • The value and nature of the separate property;
  • The value and nature of the shared community property;
  • The length of the marriage itself;
  • The financial status of you and your spouse; and
  • If you or your spouse desires to live in the family home and also spends the majority of time raising any shared children.

Washington doesn’t recognize fault in divorce proceedings. Any bad behavior such as infidelity won’t be considered when dividing shared assets. However, if the behavior was intentional and resulted in waste or destruction of property, the courts may consider it as a factor. For example, your spouse may have gambled both of you into debt. In this scenario your spouse might be held at fault, and that fault taken into account in dividing property.


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Additional Resources

Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) – Visit the official website for the U.S Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps to access a document detailing USFSPA. Learn more about disability pay, how direct payment works for the 10/10/10 rule and the survivor’s benefit plan (SBP). 

Marriage and Divorce – Visit the official website for the National Military Family Association to find more information about divorce in the military. Access the site to learn about what benefits your former spouse may be entitled to and support guidelines provided by the military.


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King County Military Benefits in Washington

If you or your spouse are seeking a divorce, it’s important that you contact an experienced divorce attorney. Your former spouse may still have access to your military benefits and retirement. Start your plan to protect your assets today with Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson.

Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson has been practicing family and divorce law for years. We understand the differences between military divorces under federal or state law. Don’t wait another moment for quality legal representation. Contact us now at (206) 712-2756. 

The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson practice clients throughout the greater King County area and surrounding communities including Burien, Seattle, Bellevue, Kent and Redmond.


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