March 16, 2012

As war, conflicts and deployments weary our nation’s Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force, military families here in Virginia and throughout the United States are shouldering the burden as well. And that burden is taking its toll – over the last ten years, military divorce rates have risen to 3.7%, more than a whole percentage from 2001.

The number may seem small at first glance, but military divorces are even more common than in families not tied to one of the services. As with many divorces, the division of assets including the division of a retirement pension in a military divorce is a common source of conflict.

If one or both spouses is or was in the military, upon divorce, the military pension is one of the assets that must be divided if it is considered marital property. And, like other marital property, up to 50 percent of a military pension may be awarded to your spouse.

Dividing and Receiving A Military Pension

What part of a military pension is considered marital property depends on the overlap of the marriage with military service. If you were married for the service member’s entire military career, then his or her pension would like be divided in half, with a 50 percent portion be awarded to each spouse. However, if you were married for only 10 years during the service member’s career, only the amount of the pension accrued during the marriage would be marital property and subject to division.

For couples who’ve been married for 10 or more years, upon divorce, the U.S. government will send the ex-spouse’s share directly to him or her. If your marriage was under 10 years, the government expects that the former military personnel will send you a portion on a monthly basis. Whether relying on a former spouse to send you a monthly amount is a good option or not is something that should be discussed with your Virginia military divorce attorney.

Don’t Forget About Survivor Benefits

An important part of a military divorce is ensuring that the non-military spouse applies for survivor benefits, if eligible. Failing to do so may mean the loss of the share of a military pension awarded in divorce upon the death of the service member.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Divorce: Splitting Up a Rich Military Pension,” Ellen E. Schultz, March 9, 2012

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