Before Crying Foul: An Incomplete Alignment of Arizona’s Community Property Doctrine and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act

Who would ever deny that both military veterans and their spouses deserve the respect and admiration of this Nation for the sacrifices they make? Yet when these couples divorce, the courts must determine whether and how to divide retirement and disability benefits between these two groups of individuals. Arizona’s community property doctrine, which favors the division of community property between spouses, directly conflicts with the federal government’s historic interpretation of military retirement and disability benefits. To resolve the conflict, the Arizona legislature recently enacted sections 25-318.01 and 25-530 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Though these statutes represent a drastic change within Arizona’s family courts, the statutes’ prohibition against dividing military disability benefits is not as comprehensive as federal law suggests it should be. This Note explores the incomplete alignment of state and federal law, what implications it may have for practitioners, and the policy considerations that laymen, attorneys, and legislators should keep in mind before crying foul at the enactment of these statutes or their incomplete alignment of federal and state law.