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How to Keep More of Your Military Retirement in a Divorce

Friday, 08 October 2010

blog-logoWhether you are still on active duty or currently in retirement, getting divorced can seriously impact how much of your military retirement benefits you will get to keep.  But what many people don’t realize is that there are specific rules in place to handle military retirement in a divorce, and those rules are the same no matter which state you live in.

Each state must abide by the same formulas, set forth by the Department of Defense relating to the calculation of military retired pay in divorce, so the only wild card in these cases is the percentage of a service member’s retirement that each party will receive.  There are a number of factors that go into this decision, but the most important ones are the length of the marriage, the relative income of the non-military ex-spouse and the health of the parties.  Learning about how these factors will impact a court’s decision is key to keeping your fair share of military retirement in a divorce, and for this you will need an experienced military divorce attorney.

Unlike most pensions, where money is set aside for later use upon retirement, military retirement pay is actually paid out of the federal budget every year and unless they have opted for a Survivor Benefit Plan, the family of the retired veteran is only given this pay while he or she is still living.  Also unlike pensions, military retired pay is adjusted for the cost of living, and instead of being paid based on years of service it is paid out on a points-earned basis.  Because of this, the non-military spouse will not only receive annual raises for the cost of living; he or she will only be entitled to the portion of the retirement pay points earned during the marriage. 

Unless your divorce lawyer is very familiar with the ins and outs of military divorce; it is likely that you could be giving up more of your military retired pay in a divorce than necessary.  For this reason, it is highly recommended that any current or former service member who is getting divorced first seek the advice of a military divorce attorney.

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