Military Divorce: Dividing Military Pensions
If you’re going through a military divorce, you’re in a whole different category from your civilian counterparts. One of the biggest issues you can encounter is the division of your spouse’s military pension. It’s an asset, and you want to be assured of getting your fair share, so what do you do?
The first thing you should do is ask about the pension when you begin divorce proceedings – don’t try to deal with it once the decree has been issued. Even if it looks like your spouse won’t be retiring for a long time, you should still get a court order that provides for equitable division of the pension.
If you forget to deal with the pension issue, and don’t get a court order, you could lose any rights to a share of the pension at a later date. Attempting to file a motion to divide any assets that were omitted during the original settlement can be a costly and complicated procedure, and can be difficult to be successful.
Therefore, to save yourself time, money, and stress, you should be sure to address your spouse’s pension as soon as you start to consider divorce proceedings. At the outset, you should ask your soon-to-be ex-spouse about his or her pension and its value. Make sure you get all the information you possibly can. If your spouse doesn’t want to share that information, then you should consult an attorney who may be able to compel him or her to disclose the information, as it is your right to have this information.
Find the Proper Court
In order to get a court order regarding pension division, you’ll have to make sure that the court has the jurisdiction to hear your case. You can do this in one of two ways – either get your spouse to agree that whatever court you end up in has jurisdiction and authority to divide the pension. If he or she won’t do this, then consult a military divorce lawyer who can make sure that you end up in a court that actually has jurisdiction.
Get a Court Order
Once you’re sure that the court has jurisdiction, ask for an order that will divide the pension. You and your spouse can agree on division, in which case your written agreement is simply converted into a court order. If you can’t agree, then you’re going to have to let the matter go to trial and allow the court to decide how to divide the pension.
Ask for Direct Pay
Once you have a court order that divides the pension, you should have your attorney send a copy of the order to the DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service). That’s the body that is responsible for paying military retirement benefits. Basically, the court order informs them that you have a right to a portion of the pension.
You might be able to receive payments directly from DFAS if the 10/10 rule has been met (meaning that your ex has spent at least ten years in the military, and that you were married for at least ten years during his or her service), your ex is retired or retiring, or there are no grounds for appeal.
If you’re not eligible for direct pay (perhaps because you don’t fit the requirements of the 10/10 rule), you might have to collect the debt by having his or her assets seized, or garnisheeing his or her income. You can also ask for assets or cash in lieu of your share of the pension.
If all this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. It’s never easy divorcing a service member. The best course of action for anyone who’s involved in a military divorce is to consult a lawyer who has expertise in military divorce, in order to make sure that your interests are protected.