Advocates of military-member rights are urging revision of a federal law that allows some ex-spouses of members of the military to collect up to half of retirement pay in the form of alimony — for life.

While a number of states have moved to restrict spousal maintenance (alimony) following a divorce, in 2011 Texas moved in the opposite direction, allowing ex-spouses to collect, in some cases, for decades. Spousal maintenance had previously been limited to three years in our state.

But the objection among many in the military is to a federal law that allows a former spouse to collect alimony essentially for life — even if they remarry.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, signed into law by President Reagan in 1982, allows states to treat military retirement benefits as property and to divide it in half.

Critics of the law argue that former spouses shouldn’t get such huge portions of retirement pay earned by serving the nation at least 20 years.

Those critics note that retirement from the military is a relative term, anyway: they aren’t literally retired, but are rather on reserve status.

They also note that few other employees of the federal government are on the hook for lifetime alimony, including those members of Congress who wrote and passed the legislation in question.

Of course, the law also has its supporters, who point out that ex-spouses often spend the best years of their lives following a service member around the globe, caring for the family, and so on.

One attorney who discussed the issue with a reporter said the military members feel they’ve earned their retirement pay and should get to keep it. Their former spouses feel that they, too, gave up part of their lives to the military, often in trying circumstances, and that they have also earned a share of that pension.

When a person faces the prospect of a divorce involving the military, they should discuss their legal options with an attorney experienced in this complex area of law.

Family Law