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Justices to hear arguments in military benefits divorce case

The U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear oral arguments in a case in which a divorced couple are in a dispute over the husband's retirement pay. The two divorced in 1991, but the issue over the man's military benefits just became relevant after his retirement. Military service members from all states, including Florida, have service member rights and benefits that could end up in a similar court case.

When the two divorced in 1991, a part of their agreement was that the wife would receive half of the husband's retirement pay from the military. Those payments began the next year, and there were no apparent issues. In 2005, however, the husband chose to waive a part of his retirement pay and receive disability benefits instead. This is often done because disability pay is not taxable, while retirement pay is.

Unfortunately, this choice had the effect of lowering the wife's monthly check that she had been receiving since the divorce. She lost $125 each month after her husband began receiving the disability benefits. The husband was able to not only save money on taxes but also received that extra $125 a month. The wife decided to go to court and ask that the amount of her monthly payment be raised back up to the amount she was getting before her husband filed that waiver. She also asked for reimbursement of the money that she had lost after her payments were lowered.

Because of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse' Protection Act, the state is authorized to divide any military member's retirement pay during a divorce. In Florida, as in other states, the division of military benefits can become a major part of divorce proceedings. Anyone who is in the military, or has been married to a military service member, can seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney to help ensure that all applicable rights are upheld and to fight for the recovery of the compensation they are entitled to according to the law.

Source: scotusblog.com, "Argument preview: Justices to consider family law and military benefits", Amy Howe, March 13, 2017

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