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Dividing a military pension in a divorce

If you or your spouse is in the military or has a military pension, the property division in your divorce is more complex than most. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, or USFSPA, governs how a military pension and other military benefits are distributed or used in the event of a divorce.

Basics of the USFSPA

Military disposable retired pay is the service member’s monthly retirement benefit – a military pension. The USFSPA allows state courts to treat a military pension just like any other pension plan when dividing assets in a divorce. A service member’s spouse may receive a portion of a military pension in the following ways post-divorce:

  • Retired pay may be divided for property settlement purposes
  • Retired pay may be garnished to satisfy child support and spousal support obligations

In order for a former spouse to receive payments from a military pension, there must be a court order that follows the rules and conditions specified in the USFSPA. The court order must specifically order that the spouse receive a portion of the retired pay.

The USFSPA does not provide that a former spouse of a service member automatically receives half of the service member’s pension. If the duration of the marriage was ten years or more, however, the nonmilitary spouse is entitled to some portion of military pensions and retirement benefits.

How the pension will be treated in a divorce is decided according to the state law that has jurisdiction over the divorce. In Arizona, pensions are governed by A.R.S. $25-318.01 and are considered “community property” and are subject to an equitable division in the divorce process.

In addition to retirement benefits, former military spouses may also be entitled to:

  • Receive commissary, exchange, and health care benefits post-divorce
  • Be designated as a Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP, beneficiary. This means that the former spouse can receive survivor benefits in the event of the service member’s death.
  • Receive military medical benefits for a temporary duration

If the service member is stationed overseas, other laws may be applicable.

The importance of an experienced military divorce attorney

Dividing military retirement benefits in a divorce is extremely complex. Whether you are the nonmilitary spouse or the spouse that is a member of the military, it is extremely important that you work with an attorney who is familiar with the laws and statutes that are specific to military divorces. Call an experienced military divorce attorney to learn more.