In divorce, military pension benefits are included in property division proceedings. While it is a simple process if a service member is already retired when the divorce starts, it is even more complicated if retirement is still a ways off. In case of the latter, the marital share of the pension needs to be calculated by an actuary or other expert.
To Take a Lump Sum or Not
When a military pension is subject for division, the civilian spouse has the option of waiting to receive a share of the benefits when the service member retires, or accepting a lump sum buyout in the form of cash or in trade for marital assets. Some lawyers believe that it is better for a civilian spouse to take a lump sum, as opposed to staying involved in an unpredictable system.
Unpredictability factors includes:
- Service member’s survival until retirement
- Eligibility for retirement
- Rank and pay grade at the time of retirement
What Gets Divided?
According to federal law, state courts are only allowed to divide “disposable retired pay” in a divorce. Disposable retired pay equals the service member’s gross retirement pay, which doesn’t include any amounts that the government deducts, such as prior overpayments or court-martial fines. Furthermore, disability pay benefits are excluded from disposable retirement pay.