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An Overview of Military Pensions & Divorce

Military service is arguably the most difficult job on the planet. It is entirely understandable for service members to be well rewarded after their service, receiving pensions based at anywhere from 40% to 100% of your base pay depending on your length of service and other factors. However, when divorce happens, that pension is an asset, just as any other source of income may be. It is important to understand the details that may make a difference in how much your spouse is entitled to.

Active Duty vs. Reservist Pensions

One factor that many do not take into account is that pension amounts will differ vastly between those on active duty and those who accept a position in the National Guard or Reserves. Pensions are calculated based on the amount of points accrued – and points are only accrued during time where one is either on active duty, or performing ‘inactive duty service’ (training, membership and/or non-residential correspondence courses). A Reservist does not receive retirement points on days where they are not training, drilling or engaged in any kind of military activity. Thus, if a Reservist and a career active duty soldier retire on the same day and have the same time in service, the latter would have the equivalent of 20 years’ worth of points toward retirement, where a Reservist would have perhaps 12.

Also, an active duty soldier who retires is immediately eligible to begin drawing their pension. Reservists must wait until their 60th birthday to begin receiving pension money in most cases. This does not change even in the event of a divorce – thus, the rights to a portion of the pension may be divided, but the actual pension disbursement will not begin until the Reservist’s 60th birthday. Also, the actual amount may differ from estimates, because if a Reservist retires “awaiting pay,” rather than simply resigning, retired pay may be calculated differently.

Divorce & Asset Division in Florida

Military retirement benefits are divisible under state law, and under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) retired pay can be automatically deducted from the retiree’s pay and sent directly to the non-military former spouse. However, there are two major caveats to be aware of.

Essentially, to be eligible for automatic retired pay deductions, a non-military former spouse must satisfy the “10/10 Rule”. That is, the marriage must have lasted for at least ten years, during the period of which one spouse served ten creditable years toward military retirement. Both of these conditions must be met, or the former spouse has no right to automatic retired pay deductions. It also would disqualify the former spouse from the benefit of the Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP), which can guarantee a portion of retired pay even after the retiree dies. Note that child support payments or spousal support (alimony) awards are not bound by these rules.

Going through a divorce can be an extremely difficult and painful process regardless of one’s situation. If you have issues or questions regarding military divorce and retirement plan division in Florida, a skilled Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney may be the difference between clarity and confusion.Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.

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