Military divorces come with unique challenges, including the division of military pensions. When a military member or veteran receives a divorce, the court may order their spouse to receive a share of their pension in the settlement.
Understanding how pensions are divided in a divorce can help you avoid unpleasant surprises down the line.
Division of Military Pensions
At the heart of the military pension division lies the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA). This legal framework doesn’t directly grant rights to former spouses but allows state courts to consider disposable retired pay as marital property.
In a Florida military divorce, the court determines the share by calculating the percentage of retired pay that qualifies as “marital.” For example, if a service member and former spouse were married for 10 years of a 20-year military career, half of the military retirement is “marital.” However, each spouse is usually entitled to only half of this marital portion. The measurement period typically starts with the date of service or marriage, whichever is earlier.
The Ten-Year Rule
In a military divorce, a state court can divide military pensions if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. The ten-year mark is a guideline that helps ensure fairness. If a marriage lasts a decade or more, it’s considered a substantial portion of a military career. A state court can award a share of the military retired pay to a former spouse, even if the marriage was shorter. However, military service and marriage should overlap for at least 10 years for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to make direct payments.
Benefits Beyond Pensions
Aside from retired pay, former spouses might be entitled to certain military benefits. These entitlements are statutory and automatic, not subject to negotiation. If the marriage and military service overlap for at least 20 years, the former spouse retains all military privileges, including medical and commissary benefits. If the overlap is at least 15 years but less than 20, transitional medical benefits for one year are available.
Factors to Consider
A state court to divide a member’s retired pay requires jurisdiction over the military member. This can be based on the member’s residence, domicile, or consent. Without proper jurisdiction, the court cannot decide on the division of military pensions.
Another factor that influences the division of military pensions is the military member’s rank. Higher-ranking officers often have more substantial pensions, which significantly impacts the division. Additionally, the type of military retirement system (such as the older Final Pay or the modern High-3) can affect the calculations.
Understanding the complexities of the military pension division can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s essential to seek legal advice. If you’re a Florida servicemember looking for a military divorce lawyer, Tampa Divorce can help. Our team of experienced attorneys can guide you through the intricate process of pension division. Call us today at 813.370.0893 or visit us at 13057 W Linebaugh Ave Ste 102, Tampa, FL 33626.