If you or a spouse are a member of the military, receive military benefits or will receive them in the future and divorce is on the horizon, you should seek counsel with experience with military divorces.
The division of retirement benefits in a military divorce requires specialized knowledge.
Generally in a divorce, retirement benefits are subject to division between spouses. Military retired pay is no exception. The Uniform Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) was passed by Congress in 1982. The USFSPA gives a state court the authority to treat military retired pay as marital property and divide it between the spouses.
Many retirement plans are divided per a Qualified Domestic Relations Order issued by the Court. Since military retired pay is a federal entitlement, and not a qualified pension plan, there is not a requirement that a Qualified Domestic Relations Order be used. Instead, the division of the retirement account must be set forth in the divorce decree.
There is no magic language that is required in a divorce decree to divide a military pension. Usually, the award would be a percentage or dollar amount per month of the member’s disposable military retirement pay. If the military member is still on active duty, the division of his retirement benefits could be by use of a coverture fraction, the numerator of which is the number of months of marriage during the member’s military service divided by the member’s total number of months of military service.
A former spouse of a retired military person also must submit a copy of the applicable court order along with a completed application form (DD Form 2293). The form and instructions can be downloaded from the DFAS website.
When dividing a military retirement plan, it is important that a former spouse be designated as beneficiary for the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) in order for the former spouse to be entitled to benefits in case of death of the spouse in the military. An election for SBP coverage must be made within one year of the date of the divorce or the court order requiring SBP coverage. The request must be submitted using DD Form 2656-10.