What happens to a military pension during divorce?

Wedding rings

If you are a member of the armed forces, your military pension may be one of your more significant assets. After all, not only does the retirement plan have a current value to you, but it also represents future financial security. Of course, if you are the spouse of a service member, you also have a substantial interest in your spouse’s military pension.

The division of military retirement pay during a divorce falls under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. Among other things, this law allows state family courts to consider military pensions as marital property. Massachusetts law does exactly that.

Property division 

If you plan to divorce your spouse in the Bay State, you must know how Massachusetts law contemplates property division. State law requires judges to take an equitable approach when dividing marital wealth. This means you should receive your fair share of marital property, even if you may not get exactly 50% of it.

Pension division 

If a judge decides you should receive an equitable share of your partner’s military pension or that you must surrender some of yours, you should understand some division parameters. The receiving spouse may receive up to 50% of disposable retirement pay, provided the following two criteria are true:

  • The marriage was for a duration of 10 years or more.
  • During the marriage, the service member had 10 or more years of creditable service.

There are some exceptions to these general guidelines. For example, a garnishment for alimony or child support may raise the pension deduction amount as high as 65%. Also, if the service member has a Survivor Benefit Plan, different rules likely apply.

Whether you are a service member or a spouse of one, you have an interest in receiving your fair share of the military pension plan. While understanding the general framework for dividing retirement pay is likely to be instructive, you should recognize that every divorce is a bit different. Nonetheless, with some knowledge, you can likely advocate for an equitable share of the retirement count.