Charlotte Military Family Law Attorneys – Spousal Support & Retirement Pay
Guidance regarding alimony and retirement for North Carolina military personnel
The rules of divorce, whether military or civilian, are generally governed by the state of North Carolina. However, active duty service members are provided certain rights and protections by the federal government, including how and when pensions can be divided with an ex-spouse, and other special issues surrounding military divorce.
If you or your spouse are members of the United States Armed Forces and are considering divorce, you have many decisions to make regarding Charlotte spousal support, division of property, child custody and child support. With their experience as former U.S. Military JAG Corps officers, our lead family law attorneys James Epperson and Steve Ockerman are uniquely qualified to help you navigate this difficult process in your life. Call Epperson Law Group, PLLC today.
How is spousal support decided in a Charlotte military divorce?
Each state has its own laws regarding spousal support, also known as alimony. As military courts don’t handle divorce proceedings, spousal support during a divorce is determined by North Carolina G.S. Chapter 50. Military service doesn’t exempt an individual from spousal support, but it doesn’t entitle an individual to spousal support either. The courts look at factors like each spouse’s earning capacity, length of the marriage, age and other considerations when determining appropriate alimony awards.
It’s not uncommon for some divorce agreements to tie military benefits into spousal support awards. However, there are limits to these awards under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA).
What is the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA)?
The USFSPA, passed in 1982, was created to both guide how military retirement pay may be divided in a divorce, and provide certain benefits and protections to former military spouses, including medical insurance and retirement pay. Prior to that, states couldn’t access military pensions for purposes of property division in military divorce.
The goal of the Act was to address the difficulties military spouses face in establishing and maintaining independent careers, as they are often required to move around the country or even the world every few years. This makes it difficult to build an employment history and accrue their own retirement funds.
Note, however, that ex-spouses aren’t automatically granted these benefits, but the USFSPA allows the court to consider these assets as part of spousal support deliberations. A former spouse is only entitled to a maximum of 50% of a military member’s disposable retired pay.
Am I eligible for part of my Charlotte ex-spouse’s military retirement pay?
The most important consideration regarding your eligibility under the USFSPA is the length of your marriage and the length of your spouse’s military service. This is known as the “10/10” rule – to be eligible, your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years, and your spouse must have served in the military for at least the same amount of time. If you meet the 10/10 rule, you’re eligible for a portion of your ex-spouse’s retirement pay or pension.
You may also have heard of the 20/20/20 rule. Similar to the 10/10 rules, the 20/20/20 rule is also based on duration of the marriage and military service. Here, your marriage must have lasted at least 20 years, your spouse must have had at least 20 years of military service, and 20 of your years of marriage overlapped 20 years of service. When you meet the 20/20/20 rule, you’re eligible for further benefits like Tricare, commissary and exchange privileges post-divorce.
Our Charlotte military divorce lawyers can talk to you about other USFSPA rights, including the 20/20/15 rule, among others.
How is a military pension divided in a Charlotte divorce?
If marital property includes military retirement benefits, the courts must take the USFSPA into account. A 2017 amendment to the USFSPA allows North Carolina courts to distribute only the amount of retirement benefits to an ex-spouse that would be paid to the service person as if they had retired on the day of the divorce. This would also include adjustments for cost of living requirements occurring between the date of the divorce and the military member’s actual retirement.
North Carolina courts use this requirement, along with state provisions and regulations when calculating pension division and awards in military divorce proceedings. Because military divorce proceedings can involve both state and federal rules, it’s important to consult with experienced military family law attorneys if you’re facing a marital split. Talk to the legal team at Epperson Law Group, PLLC.
Will I lose my ex-spouse’s pension if I remarry?
No. Because the USFSPA allows the state to treat military pensions as property rather than income, retirement benefits are regarded as a split of marital property and the exact terms should be spelled out in your divorce agreement. However, if your former spouse dies and you’re covered under their Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) under the “former spouse” plan, you would lose your benefits if you remarried before the age of 55. However, if that marriage ended in divorce or death, your SBP benefits would once again resume. You may be designated as a beneficiary on an SBP either voluntarily by your ex-spouse or via court order as part of spousal support.
If you or your spouse is in the military and considering divorce, it’s important to understand the unique rules and regulations that apply to divorce and family law. You can look to our attorneys to knowledgeable guidance to help you make informed decisions that are in your and your family’s best interests.
Experienced Charlotte military family law attorneys
With specialized and hands-on knowledge of both military and family law, the attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC can give you authoritative guidance on the divorce process. From spousal support to military pensions and division of property, we’ll work with you to ensure your rights are protected. Contact us today. You’ll find our offices right off Exit 57 from I-485. To reserve a consultation with one of our lawyers in Charlotte, Boone, or Weddington, please call 704-321-0031 or fill out our contact form.