Military Pension and Divorce: How to Divide when Divorcing

A military pension is a benefit paid to retired military personnel. These pensions are an all-or-nothing deal; unlike civilian pensions, it cannot be borrowed against or cashed out early. Divorcing military members can either be awarded their entire pensions by a judge, or be told that it will be divided with the ex-spouse. The following information will provide insight about how military pension is affected by divorce.


Delta, PA -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/28/2012 -- When dealing with military pension and divorce, it is up to the divorce court in the state in which the proceedings are submitted to decide what becomes of a service member’s pension. Sometimes a judge will say that the entire pension amount will remain with the military member; sometimes he will declare that the pension is to be split between the spouses. The former spouse is often able to receive part of the pension, depending on state family law principles. This is due to the passing of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA). The USFSPA allows for state courts to divide disposable retired pay as alimony, child support, or marital property.

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Another way military pension is affected by divorce is that the USFSPA states that if a former spouse was married to the military member for 10 years overlapping with 10 years of service and the state court judged that part of the retired pay was part of the property settlement, the former spouse was entitled to a portion of the pension. The USFSPA also permits some former military spouses to have continued health care coverage after the divorce. The Act also makes it possible for former spouses to be designated as Survivor Benefit Plan beneficiaries. The court orders the service member to declare to DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Services) that the former spouse is the beneficiary of his or her SBP. If the service member refuses to do so, the ex-spouse has one year from the divorce decree to file a complaint with DFAS.

The USFSPA does not require that state courts divide military retirement pay. It is completely up to the state court to decide if this is to happen. It also does not award a predetermined share of military pensions to former spouses, nor does it establish a blanket formula for the division of retired military pay. DFAS will, however, provide suggested formulas for this division, to be used at the state court’s discretion. Although it is commonly thought, the USFSPA does not have a minimum overlap of military service and marriage as a prerequisite to the former spouse receiving part of the pension.

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