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7 Tips on Coping with a Spouse on Active Military Duty

The Harris Law Firm

In 1982, Congress enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (Protection Act).   Under the terms of the Protection Act, Congress delegated to state courts, subject to certain limitations, the power to treat disposable retired or retainer pay payable to a member for pay periods beginning after June 25, 1981, either as property solely of the member or as property of the member and his spouse in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction of such court.  If the parties' marriage lasted 10 years or more during the time the one spouse was a member of the armed forces, the nonmilitary spouse may receive directly from the respective service's military finance center payment in the amount of the disposable retired or retainer pay specifically provided for in the court order.

The Colorado Supreme Court has recognized that as retirement approaches, a pension often represents the most valuable economic asset accumulated by either party to the marriage. It has further recognized that since military retirement pay is awarded in return for past services, it constitutes an asset which should be divisible as marital property to the extent the entitlement was based upon military service rendered during all or part of the marriage.

Accordingly, in a dissolution of marriage action, court in Colorado are bound to determine that present value of that part of the pension which is marital property, after which they may award that interest to the military spouse and give the nonmilitary spouse other marital property to offset the awarding of the pension interest to the military spouse.

In re Marriage of Gallo, 752 P.2d 47 (Colo. 1988)

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