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Explaining the 10/10 Rule for Military Divorce

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Could you please explain the 10/10 military rule? I may be getting ready to go through a divorce.


Dear Lillie,

I hope you are not going to go through a divorce, but this is a very important question.

Divorce is not easy. It can bring a lot of emotional turmoil, anger and resentment. That is why it is so necessary to get counsel from an attorney before you move forward.

Military divorce can feature many aspects that are different from a civilian divorce. I'm not a lawyer, but this is the basic information about the 10/10 rule:

In 1982, a law was passed called the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which gave state divorce courts the ability to treat military retirement pay as marital property that can be divided between the spouses.

The 10/10 rule, which is part of the USFSPA, is often misunderstood in its scope.

Many people mistakenly believe that military spouses are eligible to receive a division of the military retirement pay only if they were married to their spouse for at least 10 years and that 10 of those years were "creditable" military service years. This is not true.

Here is how the 10/10 rule works:

If you were married for at least 10 years to your spouse, and during that time your spouse performed creditable military service for at least 10 years, you can have your portion of the divided military retirement pay sent to you directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) instead of from your former spouse.

All the 10/10 rule has to do with is where your check comes from -- directly from DFAS or sent to you by your ex-spouse after he receives his monthly payment. It has nothing to do with whether you are eligible to have the retirement pay divided.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough how you need to consult an attorney if a divorce is in your future. Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing.

Ms. Vicki

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Ms. Vicki, a native of Dallas, has been the ‘Dear Abby’ for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her column has appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Ms. Vicki has retired from writing new columns for Although Ms. Vicki is no longer offering new advice on, you can still email military benefits questions to our Questions and Benefits team. Need military spouse career help? Email our Dear Career writers.