Understanding How Military Pension Is Divided in a Divorce

Date Posted:July 18, 2014 | Categories:Divorce and Dissolution

How Military Pension Is Divided in a Divorce

In a divorce, money and the children are often the most important issues in question. Military divorces can be especially complicated because military relationships are marked by frequent moves and prolonged deployments. Furthermore, the non-military spouse in a divorce is often unemployed or underemployed, which could make the service member responsible for spousal support after the divorce.

Service members who retire after at least 20 years of active service receive retirement pension for the rest of their lives. Military pensions are treated as marital property that can be divided in a divorce. Spouses are entitled to half of the military pension if they were married to the service member for 10 years. However, the division of pension is negotiable. The spouse can ask for half of the pension even if they were married for less time, and the service member can ask that the spouse receive a smaller portion of the pension even if they were married for more than 10 years.

Accepting a Lump Sum Buyout vs. Taking the “Wait and See” Approach

When dividing military pension, the spouse has the option to receive a lump sum buyout for cash or in trade for other marital assets. Alternatively, the spouse can wait till the service member retires to receive a share of the benefits. In some cases, it may be better to take a lump sum payment at divorce rather than wait and see because of the unpredictability of the system. Factors that could affect how military pension is divided include the following:

  • Service member’s eligibility for retirement
  • Service member’s survival till retirement
  • Service member’s rank and pay grade at the time of retirement

It may also be better to take a lump sum payment if you don’t qualify under the 10/10 rule, which means you were married for 10 years and the service member has at least 10 overlapping years of military service. If you wait, you’ll have to rely on your former spouse to pay you after retirement, and there’s always a chance that your spouse won’t live up to the terms of your agreement. This will require that you go back to court to enforce the terms of your divorce decree. If you opt for the lump sum buyout, the military will pay you directly and you’ll receive the lump sum amount when you settle your divorce.

If a service member is already retired when the divorce process begins, dividing the military pension is relatively simple. However, if retirement is still far off in the future and a couple doesn’t agree on dividing the military pension equally, the process of dividing the pension will be more complex. Some courts may refuse to make a decision at the time of the divorce, so they can retain the right to make a decision about the division of retirement benefits at the time the service member actually retires or becomes eligible for retirement. If this happens, the spouse must expect to pay additional legal fees and appear in court at an unknown date in the future.

Hire a Military Divorce Lawyer in Ohio

Military family law is complicated, and every military divorce has unique circumstances. There are a myriad of state laws and military policies affecting military divorce, so it’s advisable to hire an experienced and knowledgeable military divorce lawyer in Ohio early in the process. You can arrange a mutually convenient time for a consultation with Edward F. Whipps & Associates by calling our Columbus office at (614) 398-4182, our Dublin office at (614) 461-6007, or toll-free at (877) 367-6544.