Military Spousal Support Entitlements: (Alimony in a Military Divorce)

Understanding the intricacies of spousal support for military personnel can be daunting. Many couples find the divorce process difficult, and matters only get more complicated if one or both spouses are military personnel. Adding the complications of service benefits and pensions to the mix of other issues to deal with after a divorce can make an already stressful process even more challenging.

This is because, while every state has its own divorce laws, federal law governs the benefits that military personnel and their spouses are qualified for during and after a divorce. Iy can create a complicated situation wherein state and federal regulations must be handled, resulting in many misunderstandings about military divorces.

If you or your spouse is a military person and you’re thinking about getting divorced, here are the facts behind spousal support for military divorce

Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military

In a divorce where one or both spouses are serving in the US military, there are specific rights and benefits for the parties which are not the same as civilian spouses. Let’s outline these here:

Basic Allowance for Housing

If a service member is separated from his or her immediate family, they are entitled to a BAH. When a couple is not formally divorced, the military spouse is responsible for supporting his or her children and spouse.

The former spouse must next request an appropriation against his or her former spouse’s income, depending on the state of the divorce.

Transitional Medical Benefits

Under the 20/20/15 rule, a spouse is eligible for one year of transitional medical benefits if the following are met:  more than twenty years of marriage, twenty years of military service, and at least fifteen years of marriage and military duty overlap.

Military Spouse’s Pension

The amount of a divorced spouse’s pension received by their ex is determined by how long the marriage lasted while the service member was serving. For example, if a military spouse has served in the military for twenty years but has only been married for 10, the non-military spouse is only entitled to half of the pension earned during their ten-year union.

However, even this isn’t a guarantee, and the amount of a service member’s pension that a partner may get after separation will be determined by the couple’s specific circumstances and how their assets are shared.

Steps to Request and Get Alimony in the Military

Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the MilitaryBecause, unlike child support, military service does not exclude a person from spousal support, a military spouse on active service can be sued for spousal support.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects active-duty members of the military forces from a civil suit, may have an impact on alimony disputes amongst spouses.

The SCRA may allow a service member to claim that the alimony petition against him or her should be delayed because his or her military obligations prevent him or her from presenting a defense.

Using SCRA to Evade Alimony

Though the SCRA does not grant immunity from litigation, such as spousal support, it can be utilized to delay or prolong statutes of limitations in civil cases.

If a spouse’s military duty will have a significant impact on his or her right to defend the suit — in this case, the spousal support action – a trial court can delay (or postpone) the case. Nevertheless, if a spouse’s military assignment has no meaningful impact on his or her ability to defend the lawsuit, the court can reject relief.

The use of SCRA to avoid or evade spousal support proceedings is not condoned by the courts. The military, on the other hand, cannot compel a service member to pay support unless it is ordered by a court.

Spousal Support Guidelines in the Military

Spousal Support Guidelines in the Military

There are specific steps to take to get alimony in a military divorce

Spousal support guidelines exist in the military. The military member must offer support to dependents in an amount equivalent to his or her entire Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at the “with dependent” rate, according to these rules.

Let’s assume a civilian spouse is seeking to get alimony from an ex-spouse who is in the Navy and claims he or she can’t afford much because he or she receives a housing allowance. The civilian partner can use the temporary support rules, which are widely available, to plead their case.

These interim support guidelines, like child support guidelines, are best used as a stopgap solution until a spouse can acquire a court order and then an allocation.

What to do When Military Alimony is not Paid

When a military member refuses to pay alimony as directed by the court, the civilian spouse might use an “involuntary allotment,” also known as a “mandatory allotment,” to force them to do so. A wage-withholding order that is enforceable against military personnel is known as an involuntary allotment.

Military wages can be deducted for a variety of reasons, including spousal support. Military retirement pay, reserve pay, and federal civilian employee pay are all examples of wages that can be garnished (if the spouse is a civilian employee of the military, say).

Through the company or unit commander, a civilian can get a temporary spousal support order against a military spouse. After securing a court order, the service member’s wages can be garnished or a portion of it given to child support, as the court order specifies.

The housing allowance and the food allowance are not subject to garnishment or taxes, but all other types of active income, including special skills compensation, can be deducted when alimony is not paid.


Spousal support in a divorce involving military servicemen is not like that of civilian spouses. While the latter can be handled by the spouses, mediators, and judges, the former may take more steps. There are laws protecting military personnel on active duty from a civil suit.

Alimony after a military divorce is calculated with a military spousal support calculator and the components of civilian divorce are mostly similar to those found in a military divorce checklist.

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.

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