Divorce rates for military officers and enlisted members have been on a steady decline.
However, if you are or were in the military or you are married to someone who is or was in the military and you are considering divorce, it is extremely important that you speak to an attorney FIRST.
Important factors in a military divorce:
Before a fair and equitable division of a military pension can occur, it first must be determined what retirement benefits are available. The documents that can be used to determine this include:
- Leave and Earnings Statement (for active duty members)
- Retirement Points Statement (for Reserve and Guard members)
- Retiree Account Statement (for retirees)
- SBP election forms
- Retirement orders and discharge papers
- Officer or Enlisted Record Briefs
The division of military benefits is permitted by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act. The Act permits each state to determine how and when to divide military retirement pay. In order for a former spouse to receive military pension payments directly, the amount of time the former spouse was married to the service member is important. There must be ten years of marriage overlapping ten years of military service for a former spouse to get pension payments directly following a divorce. In addition, the service person must have been in the service for 20 or more years. However, even with an overlap of less than ten years, the former spouse is still eligible to claim a share of the retired pay, but they will not be able to receive such a payment directly from DFAS. Rather, the retiree will have to make the payments to the former spouse.
Certain types of disability compensation can reduce the retirement pay that is divisible with a former spouse. The primary types of disability payments are military disability retirement pay, VA disability compensation, and Combat-Related Special Compensation. Courts cannot divide veteran disability compensation with a former spouse, and only a small part of military disability retirement pay is subject to pension division. Therefore, disability payments in military divorces are a critical factor in determining what, if any retirement payments can be made to a former spouse.
If a service member has at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if he or she was an honorably discharged Veteran or was discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, he or she (or their children) may be eligible for this VA-administered program: Post-9/11 GI Bill.
A military divorce can be complicated and confusing. Please feel free to ask me any questions or arrange a consultation to discuss your situation.
Most importantly, if there has been 20 years of marriage overlapping 20 years of military service, a former spouse who has not remarried may qualify for full medical benefits as a “20/20/20 spouse.” A former spouse who has been married for 15 years, with 10 years overlapping the 20 years of service or even 10 years of marriage with all 10 years overlapping with the military service can receive some partial medical benefits, as well.