If you are in the military and are married now, you may be building up your retirement and pension. As you consider the idea of a divorce, it’s your concern that you may lose those assets if you and your spouse separate. It’s possible, but you also may not. It all depends on your circumstances.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Services, or DFAS administer the pension and military pay you receive. They have their own rules that determine who they’re paid out.
Can your spouse get a portion of your pension?
That depends. Have you been married for 10 years? Do those 10 years overlap with 10 years of qualified service? If so, then the DFAS will recognize any qualified court order asking to divide the pension. If not, then the DFAS will not recognize those orders.
Under the Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act, or USFSPA, the state courts are able to handle military pensions as shared property when it meets the above qualifications. Interestingly, while it used to be that the retired pay could be divided 50/50, that rule has changed to a frozen benefit rule. With this rule, former spouses have to have their benefits frozen until the dissolution of the marriage. Then, the share they can receive is based on the time their spouse was in the military as well as other factors.
The 10/10 rule applies, meaning that your spouse would need to be married to you for 10 years overlapping that service. If they don’t meet that requirement, then the division of your retired pay may not occur. However, the state courts can set their own orders, and there can be variances to watch for.
You deserve to protect your military pension
Your retirement is something you’re working hard for, and you deserve to protect it. If you are getting close to the ten-year mark, it may be time to look into your options and to move your divorce along to prevent the 10/10 rule from kicking in. There may also be other options to help you protect your assets, so you can keep as much of your property as possible.