The Division Of A Military Pension In A Divorce

A married couple with one or both spouses serving in the military can experience special challenges. There are often children involved, and one spouse may have to postpone or forgo education or employment to care for the children full-time while the other spouse is deployed. In addition, frequent moves and the stress of serving in the military can strain even the strongest relationships. In fact, statistics from the Department of Defense show there were almost 30,000 military divorces in 2011, which is the highest rate of divorce among service members since 1999.

Tennessee Property Division In Divorce

Tennessee is an "equitable division" state, which means that, if the couple cannot agree to a property division settlement themselves in divorce, a judge will divide and award the marital property according to what the judge sees as fair and just. This does not mean there is an automatic 50-50 split between the couple. Instead, there are several factors a judge considers when making a property division decision.

Some of the property divided may include retirement accounts like a pension, IRA or 401(k). Contributions made to these accounts during the marriage are considered marital property. Therefore, both spouses may receive a share of the account in the division of marital property, even if only one spouse worked and contributed to the account directly.

Military pension division in divorce

The same can be true for military pensions. Service members who serve at least 20 years in the military before retiring receive a military pension for the rest of their lives. And, like civilian retirement accounts, a military pension may be divided in divorce as well.

The amount a non-military ex-spouse may receive from the service members pension is negotiable, and the pension may be divided by a judge just like the couple's other marital property. If the couple was married for at least 10 years, the non-military spouse can receive up to half of the service members military pension directly from the pension plan servicer.

If more than half of a service members military pension is awarded to a non-military ex-spouse, the service member must make those payments directly to the former spouse. Further, a service member also must make payments directly to the non-military ex-spouse if the marriage lasted less than 10 years but the former spouse is awarded part of the military pension.

Military Survivor's Benefit Plan

In addition to addressing the military pension, a military divorce decree should also include provisions regarding the Survivor's Benefit Plan. With an SBP, a non-military ex-spouse can continue to receive benefits from the military pension plan if the service member passes away before the former spouse does. Without this, military pension payments may not continue, and a former spouse may not receive all that was awarded to him or her in the divorce decree or settlement.

If you or your spouse is in the military and you are considering divorce, contact a family law lawyer with experience in military divorce cases to discuss your specific situation.

Non-military ex-spouses who receive part of a military pension in the property division should also request that a deadline for the service member to apply for retirement benefits be included in the divorce decree, since the ex-spouse cannot collect until the service member applies for benefits.

Non-military ex-spouses may also want to consider negotiating a Survivor's Benefit Plan as part of the property division to replace pension plan payments should the military member ex-spouse die before the non-military ex-spouse.