Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dondi West Explains the Military Leave and Earning Statement or "LES"

Members of the armed forces are certainly very familiar with the acronym "LES." LES stands for Leave and Earnings Statement, which breaks down the amount of compensation that a service member received that particular month. The information is broken down into three categories: entitlement, deductions and allotments. For those militaries families who are considering a divorce, the LES will play a crucial role in the division of property and determination of child or spousal support obligations.

The LES is distributed to service members on a biweekly basis. The information, including pay grades, the basic rate of pay as well as any allowances listed in the report will determine exactly what the income is for a service member. If the couple has children, this is the information that will be used to calculate support payments.

Military retirement pay will also be a major issue when a service member is going through a divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act is the federal statute that deals with military retirement pay. If the spouse has been married for at least ten years, and this overlaps with ten years of service time, the retirement payment can be distributed under the act. If the marriage has not lasted ten years, there may be additional options available for the divorcing non-service member spouse, depending upon the agreement of the parties.

Each state is allowed to determine whether or not this asset is to be considered marital property. Currently, all states consider the retirement pay to be property of the marriage, and subject to division.

Retirement benefits will generally start only after a service member retires after 20 years. While retirement pay is considered marital property, there are other benefits that may not be subject to equitable division. If the service member applies for and receives Veterans Administration disability benefits, portions of these benefits will be considered personal property, and excluded from any divorce proceeding.

With all of the various laws and jurisdictional issues that may apply, it is easy to get overwhelmed. If you are in the armed forces, or married to someone who is currently serving, contact Dondi West, founder of DONWEST Legal, LLC, and an experienced military family law attorney, to understand the options that are available to you.

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