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Dividing Military Retirements in Divorce

Posted by E. W. Childers | Aug 31, 2019 | 0 Comments

Military Retirements

The most valuable asset most active-duty military families have is a service member's pension. Once earned it pays a substantial amount of money until the service member dies, or in the case of proper planning until both the member and their spouse have died.

Like other marital property a pension earned wholly or partly during the marriage is subject to division. There is a certain amount of misinformation regarding whether a military pension is divisible or not.

Can My Military Retirement Be Divided?

If any part of it was earned during the marriage it can be divided. Each party will propose formulas about how it should be divided, if at all, and the court will decide upon the exact division.

But the Federal Government says it Cannot be Divided!

That's not exactly what the rules are. The rules are that if the member and the spouse were married for at least ten years during which the member served at least ten years then upon receipt of a proper order (COAP rather than a QDRO) from a court of competent jurisdiction the government will establish a separate account for the spouse and pay that account the percentage of the retirement ordered by the court.

So as an example, the Joseph and Brianna have been married for five years while Joseph was a service member. They are getting divorced. The court orders the division of the retirement accrued during the marriage. The federal government, in this case, cannot be ordered to divide the retirement. However, Joseph can be so ordered. He would be ordered to pay Briana a percentage of the retirement as he received it. This is obviously more difficult on the parties both to pay and to receive. If they had been married for ten years or more while Joseph was a service member for ten years or more then the government could have been ordered to establish a separate account for Brianna and pay her share into that account.

But I Haven't Done Twenty Years

The Court can still divide whatever is earned when it grants the divorce. If the service member never retires (they discharge short of retirement, etc.) then the retirement never vests and the spouse never receives anything. The practical effect of this is that lots of times the military retirement goes undivided by agreement (especially if the member has only a few years in service, etc.). However, the potential for a retirement should not lightly be set aside.

If you need advice about how to handle your military retirement during a divorce case call (405) 310-9890 for a free consultation.

About the Author

E. W. Childers

I am a husband, father, Army veteran, and attorney here in Norman, Oklahoma. I've been practicing law throughout Central Oklahoma since 2006 shortly after I graduated from the OU College of Law. In my practice I have emphasized Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Personal Injury. I like to help peo...


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