Please see the Garnishment Operations web pages for a more detailed and authoritative discussion of Former Spouse issues.
Are former spouses of military retirees entitled to a portion of the retirees’ pay?
In some cases they are. There is no federal law that automatically entitles a former spouse to a portion of a member’s military retired pay. The former spouse must have been awarded a portion of the member’s military retired pay in a state court order.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), passed in 1981, accomplishes two things. First, it gives state courts the power to divide military retired pay as a marital asset or as community property in a divorce proceeding. Second, it provides a mechanism for a former spouse to enforce a retiree to pay, as a property award, direct payments to the former spouse from the member’s retired pay.
Are all former spouses of military retirees eligible under this law?
The retired member must be eligible to receive military retired pay in order to qualify. The former spouse must have been married to the retired member for a minimum of 10 years, during which the member performed at least 10 years of military service creditable towards retirement eligibility.
If the 10/10 requirement is not met, it does not mean the former spouse’s award is invalid. It only means that DFAS cannot enforce it by direct payments to the former spouse. The 10/10 requirement does not apply to the enforcement of alimony or child support.
How does a former spouse apply for payments?
The former spouse must submit a completed application for payments to DFAS Garnishment Operations. An application consists of a completed DD Form 2293, and a copy of the complete court order stating the former spouse’s award that has been certified by the clerk of court. Only the former spouse, and not the retired member, may initiate this process. Also a copy of the Divorce Certificate should be included when Deeming election.
The application must be sent to Garnishment Operations at DFAS. It may be faxed to 216-522-6960 or 877-622-5930 (toll free), or sent by regular mail to:
Assistant General Counsel for Garnishment Operations
P.O. Box 998002
Cleveland, OH 44199-8002
How long does it take to process an application?
If the member is already eligible to receive retired pay, the law requires that former spouse payments begin no later than 90 days after DFAS receives a complete application.
During this 90 day period, DFAS will notify the member that payments are being initiated. The member then has 30 days from the date the notice was mailed to provide legal documentation showing why payments should not begin. No payments can be made until after the 30 day notice period.
If the member is not already eligible for retired pay, the law requires DFAS to begin former spouse payments no later than 90 days after the member becomes eligible for retired pay.
What types of payments can be made?
The payments may include one or any combination of the following: alimony, child support and child support arrears. Alimony arrears cannot be collected under the USFSPA. Current child support and alimony, as well as child support and alimony arrears, may be enforced by garnishment under federal law.
How much is a former spouse entitled to receive?
That is a complicated question. Under federal law, a former spouse is entitled to receive no more than 50 percent of the retired member’s disposable retired pay (defined as gross retired pay minus authorized deductions). The list of qualifying deductions varies depending on the retired member’s entitlements and the date of the divorce, but may include debts owed the federal government, child support payments, and other debts.
This amount may be different from the dollar amount or percentage awarded by the state court. However, federal law supersedes state law and the rules DFAS follows set the actual payment amount.
Are my former spouse payments taxable?
Yes, they are considered taxable income and are subject to Federal Income Tax Withholding. In some cases the amount falls under the threshold for automatic deduction of federal income taxes. However, former spouse payments, combined with your other sources of income, may result in taxes due at the end of the year. DFAS is required to issue the former spouse an IRS Form 1099-R each year, reporting the former spouse’s portion of retired pay. Consult a tax professional about your specific circumstances. Since you are receiving an annuity, you will need to submit a completed W4P form to determine the amount of taxes that were withheld.
What type of information may a former spouse receive about a retired member’s account?
DFAS can release information to the former spouse without violating the Privacy Act rights of the retired member if the information pertains to the calculation of the former spouse’s payment. However, that information must be requested in writing and cannot be discussed on the telephone if the former spouse calls the DFAS customer service line.
Other questions regarding former spouse information can be directed to the DFAS Garnishment Operations department at the address above, or by calling 888-332-7411 or 216-522-5096 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time. When using either number, select option 6. If a Garnishment representative is not immediately available, please leave a message and one of our staff members will reply to your question.
What information may I obtain about money being paid to me, as the former spouse?
Pay verification letters, which state how much you receive in a monthly payment, can be requested from the Customer Care Center. Also, a former spouse may ask the call center to reissue an IRS form 1099-R.
Can the Customer Care Center tell a member or former spouse how much the former spouse will receive as a monthly payment?
No. Customer Service Representatives will not do calculations regarding payments. The payment amount can only be determined after submission of all appropriate forms and documentation and can only be revealed by Garnishment Operations.
What if a former spouse needs to update or change information such as a bank account or mailing address?
Those changes must be made in writing with a FMS 2231 Direct Deposit form to DFAS at the address listed above. Also, former spouses may have access to myPay to update and review their account. For more information on myPay , visit our Managing Your Account FAQs. For other questions, call Garnishment Operations at 888-332-7411, option 6.
We don’t qualify under the 10/10 rule, but my former spouse pays me alimony through a voluntary allotment. Can I update information such as address or bank account information by phone?
Yes. Because this is a voluntary allotment, under certain circumstances, you can update address and bank account information by calling the R&A Pay Customer Care Center at 800-321-1080.
As a former spouse, I may notice that my monthly pay changes. Why is that?
A number of factors can affect the amount of disposable pay a retired member receives, and that in turn affects the payment a former spouse receives. Call or write Garnishment Operations for detailed information.
As a former spouse of a military retiree, am I entitled to coverage under the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) when he or she passes away?
The retired member would have had to elect to participate in Former Spouse SBP and pay premiums. If the member did not choose to participate, then there is no way to retroactively elect SBP.
Is the former spouse automatically named as a beneficiary under SBP?
The former spouse must be awarded SBP as part of the divorce decree. If awarded in the decree, the former spouse must deem an election as a covered beneficiary within one year of the date of the divorce. This must be done using a Deemed Election form (DD Form 2656-10).