Going through a divorce is complicated enough as it is, but if you or your
spouse is in the military, you also have the issue of military pensions
to contend with. In essence, a divorce aims to divide the shared assets
in a marriage between the spouses in a way that works best for them and
their family. However, military pensions are earned by military members
alone, so when a couple divorces, what happens to the pension?
Understanding the Basics of Military Pensions
Military pensions are earned benefits provided only to military members
who have served for at least 20 years. They are a form a deferred compensation,
like most retirement funds. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses
Protection Act (USFSPA), a military pension is considered marital property,
and as such can be divided in a divorce. In other words, both spouses
are lawfully entitled to claim a portion of the military pension, regardless
of which spouse was the military member.
How Are Pensions Divided?
While pensions can be divided, that does not necessarily mean they always
are. The way a pension is divided depends largely on the time the couple
was married. The pension can be divided by half for each spouse if the
couple was married for at least 10 years, or it can be given mostly to
the spouse who served, with a smaller portion to the supporting spouse.
Some couples may decide to divide their assets differently. For example,
perhaps one spouse will get the house and the other will take the pension.
Again, this varies depending on the needs and wishes of each individual
What if the Non-Military Spouse Has No Retirement of Their Own?
In most cases, the spouse of the military member stayed at home caring
for the couple’s children and did not support a career, and therefore
does not have a retirement fund of her own. In these situations, it is
generally accepted that because she spend her life supporting her husband’s
military career, she is entitled to a portion of the pension.
Jurisdiction Issues for Military Divorce
Military families typically move frequently, which makes it difficult to
determine which state will have jurisdiction over your divorce case. For
example, if one spouse lives in Nebraska and the other lives in California,
where will you go to court? In order to properly negotiate your military
pension, you must be sure that the court has the authority to hear your
case. Make sure that you both agree on a court, or have your attorney
help you negotiate.
Military divorces are tricky, and handling a divorce that involves a military
pension on your own is nearly impossible. Seek the legal help of a confident,
experienced firm that knows what to do for your military divorce.
Contact Powell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, P.A. divorce attorneys and rest easy knowing we have your best interest at heart.