Military divorce and the 10/10 rule

As of Sept. 2017, about 1.3 million people actively served in the U.S. military, and around 800,000 worked in the reserves. Of that, almost 48,000 of Colorado’s citizens were active duty and reserve members.

Statistics concerning military divorces show that in the fiscal year 2017, about 22,000 out of 690,000 married troops divorced. The military calculates the divorce rate by comparing the number of troops listed as married with the number who reported divorces. Regular divorces sometimes confuse couples; bringing in the military may add additional headaches.

The 10-Year Rule

The 10/10 rule, also known as the 10-Year Rule, falls under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. The act gives Colorado and other states the power to distribute retirement pay to former spouses. It also offers a way to implement the orders through the Department of Defense’s Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

The 10/10 rule requires two things:

  1. The military member and former spouse’s marriage had to last at least 10 years.
  2. During the 10 years or more of marriage, the military member must have at least 10 years of service, which is eligible for retirement pay.

The rule does not mean a former spouse cannot receive benefits if married less than 10 years. It merely means DFAS can directly pay the former spouse. If the marriage does not meet the 10-Year Rule guidelines, the military spouse is the one who must pay the former spouse.

State jurisdiction

To enforce the orders, the state must have jurisdiction over the military member by:

  • Domicile
  • Residence
  • Consent
  • Indication of consent by affirmative action in the legal proceeding

In Colorado, the state requires the military member or former spouse to be a resident for at least 90 days before filing. For the service member to be a Colorado resident, his or her Leave and Earnings Statement must show Colorado as the legal state of residence. The member must also have a Colorado driver’s license or other proof of property ownership.