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Dividing military pensions during divorce

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2021 | Divorce

Alabama couples who seek a divorce where one party is or has been a member of the military will have to address the military pension as well as other benefits during negotiations. The way military pensions are treated and divided varies from state to state, but certain benefits are not regulated by state legislation.

States and military pensions

Throughout all 50 states, military pensions are regarded as community or marital property. However, what portion of the pension is actually divided depends on both state legislation and the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. While states can decide how to divide the military pension, even when a marriage has lasted less than a year, the Department of Defense will only make direct pension payments to a former spouse when the marriage lasted at least 10 years and at least 10 of those years happened when the other party was in active military service.

Limits on payments of military pensions

There are limits on the share of the military pension that a former spouse can receive. Former spouses can receive payments of up to 50% of the total retirement pay or up to 65% if they also receive alimony and child support. If the military member also receives disability, this benefit cannot be divided during a divorce. However, the payments can be garnished for alimony and child support.

Other military benefits

If the couple was married for 20 years or more, certain benefits are automatically awarded after a military divorce. These include:

  • Medical coverage
  • Commissary privileges
  • Military exchanges

When the marriage lasted less than 20 years but more than 15, a former spouse can receive medical coverage for one year after the marriage. Understanding access to other benefits may require a lawyer’s help.

Military divorces involve special knowledge about military legislation and practices. If you are in this situation, you may consider consulting with a lawyer to guide you through the process.


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