Monitoring Oklahoma Military Divorce Legislation
In 2009, 2010, and 2011, Oklahoma courts reviewed initiatives to change how Oklahoma divides the pay of military retirees in cases of divorce.
Under federal law, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) permits states to treat military retired pay as either sole or marital property. The federal law leaves it to each state’s discretion to determine how this division should occur. Most of the Oklahoma initiatives have been aimed toward maximizing the service member’s receipt of retired pay — by restricting any amount distributed to a former spouse.
While the Oklahoma bills are dormant for now, tabled with an 8-7 vote on April 15, 2011, the request for USFSPA changes will most likely rise again next year.
Will Oklahoma succeed in making major USFPSA changes?
- A 2011 USAA report ranked Oklahoma as “the second best location for service members to retire.” (Rankings were based on high quality of life, while making the most of military benefits. Waco, Texas came in first.)
- Oklahoma also has four military bases: Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, Ft. Sill Army Post in Lawton, Altus AFB in Altus, and Vance AFB in Enid.
Add these retirees and active duty personnel and you have a compelling voting force grabbing the attention of the Oklahoma representatives who must run for reelection. If Oklahoma keeps tweaking their proposals for local application of the USFSPA, perhaps a change may come soon.
Who should watch Oklahoma’s USFSPA actions?
- Couples awaiting divorce: Service members might look for strategies to delay divorce in the hopes of new legislation that would restrict the division of pay.
- Couples in troubled military marriages: Those in fragile marriages might plan ahead before changing station. A service member might try to move to Oklahoma, or a civilian spouse might choose to remain behind (refuse to change station) or choose to relocate outside of Oklahoma in order to fall under more advantageous jurisdiction rules and receive more favorable USFSPA treatment. (Deciding where to file based on jurisdiction rules is one of the more complicated aspects of a military divorce.)
- Divorced military couples: Those already divorced should watch for any proposed legislation with retroactive effects. If you were divorced outside of Oklahoma, you should still pay attention. While proposals in Oklahoma should only impact divorces finalized in Oklahoma, other states might ‘catch the wave’ and begin initiatives to change their local legislation as well.
Bills move quickly and there is not always time to voice your opinion. For upcoming Oklahoma bills, you can voice your opinions using the contact list below:
- Oklahoma Lawyers Association
- Oklahoma House of Representative Members
- Oklahoma Senators
- Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin
- Donna Lawrence, Chair, The Oklahoma Women’s Coalition
- Sheryl Lovelady, Director, The Women’s Leadership Initiative
- Linda Jordan, Chair, The Tulsa Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women
- Rita Aragon, Secretary of Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs
- Deborah Reheard, President Oklahoma Bar Association
- Mary T. Scott, Chair, The National Military Family Association
- Mary Walker, Chair, Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women