What You Need to Know about How Retirement is Split in a Military Divorce

What You Need to Know about How Retirement is Split in a Military Divorce

Simply stated, what you need to know about dividing the service member’s retirement in the context of a military divorce is too extensive to describe in this brief article, so we encourage you to view the websites cited in the source information below.

There are, however, four possible methods of determining the portion that will be awarded to the soon-to-be ex-spouse of the military member. It could be divided by percentage amount, dollar amount, a fraction, or a delayed order option. If it sounds complicated, it’s because it is. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. All methods are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act.

Coverture Fraction Formula

With this method, the payment to the ex-spouse is expressed in dollars, or as a fraction of the disposable retirement pay. This would seem to be reasonable, but the disadvantage to the service member is that the benefits will be calculated based on events that occurred AFTER the divorce, and who knows what the future can bring? You might accumulate years of service, and you might get promotions, and you might retire after 30 years of service. Or you might not. Either way, you’re on the hook for whatever the court decided was likely.

Your attorney can help to limit the potential for disaster by asking for a court order stating that the calculation will be based on the earnings that were in effect as of the date of the divorce. Your spouse won’t benefit from any additional years of service.

Dollar Amount

When a settlement is awarded based on a dollar amount, your ex-spouse isn’t entitled to any adjustments. There’s a complex formula involved under the COLA adjustment regulations, and again, we’re not going to go into great detail here. Suffice it to say that this is usually a good arrangement for the service member, but perhaps less so for the ex-spouse. Again, check the resources.

Percentage Amount

If your pension isn’t matured, this is probably not a great option for you as a service member. This is because you don’t know exactly when you’re going to retire. The longer you stay in the military, the more your ex-spouse gets. Understandably, you don’t want to divide future assets.

Deferred Percentage

This option basically mean that you’re leaving the calculation and the conclusion open. When you apply for your retirement pay, your ex will be notified, and a “clarifying court order” will be needed. As a service member, this is a very undesirable option for you. It means that the division of your pension is deferred to some point down the road, and you’re going to end up paying more legal fees.


If you’re thoroughly confused right now, that’s understandable. Military divorce is no less painful and distressing than civilian divorce, but it can be very much more complex. In order to protect your interests, if you’re in the military and undergoing the emotional and financial trauma of divorce, you would be well advised to seek expert help. Military divorce lawyers know the ins and outs of the highly complex procedure of marriage dissolution when one member is in the armed forces.

You don’t need to go it alone. If you’re a service member whose marriage is, unfortunately, breaking down, contact a military divorce lawyer for competent, compassionate advice on pension division, custody issues, and where to file for divorce. It’s the best way for you to protect your interests and minimize the harm of what can be an incredibly difficult time.