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Dividing Military Benefits in a Divorce

Even in the most amicable and uncontested divorces in Florida, dealing with property division can be a frustrating and confusing process. How will your assets and debts be divided? And will you and your spouse be required to sell certain property you’ve acquired during the marriage? In Florida, it’s important to remember that a judge will determine an “equitable distribution” of your marital assets and liabilities under Florida Statute Section 61.075.

But is the law different when we’re talking about a military divorce? Will military benefits be divided in the same manner? According to a recent article in the National Law Review, military pensions and other benefits may pose complications during property division.

Military Spouses, Length of Marriage, and Length of Service

If you’re a military spouse and you’re in the process of getting divorced, you likely have questions about whether you’ll be entitled to any military benefits. Before we get into the complexities of dividing military pensions, let’s take a look at the requirements for a military spouse to be eligible for benefits.

To determine whether you’ll be able to obtain military benefits from your spouse, you’ll need to ask whether the length of your marriage and the length of your spouse’s service time are sufficient to qualify you. For a former military spouse to receive benefits directly—military pension payments that come directly from the military—the former spouse will need to have been married for at least ten years. And there’s an additional requirement. Those ten years of marriage must have overlapped with at least ten years of military service.

But even if you don’t qualify under these requirements, you may still be eligible to receive money from your former spouse’s pension. How would that work? You won’t be able to receive military pension payments directly. However, a judge may determine that a former spouse, despite the lack of the ten-year overlap, is entitled to receive some of the funds in a military pension. In such a case, the military spouse who receives the pension will need to make payments to the former spouse.

And for twenty year overlaps—those in which twenty years of marriage overlapped with twenty years of service—the former spouse may be able to receive full medical benefits in addition to direct military pension payments.

Determining the Amount of Military Benefits

Once you know whether you’re likely to qualify for military benefits, how do you know what kinds of benefits might be available to you? Since military pensions aren’t subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), you’ll need to discuss military benefit issues with a dedicated Florida divorce attorney. To ensure that the military benefits in your family are divided equitably, it’s important to know what’s there.

You can look at a number of different documents, depending on your military spouse’s current position, to see what benefits are available. For instance, if your spouse is still on active duty, a Leave and Earnings Statement can tell you about benefits. If your spouse has already retired, a Retirement Points Statement can provide this essential information. And if your spouse is a Reserve or Guard member, you’ll need to take a look at a Retirement Points Statement. Your attorney can help you through this complex process.

Contact a Hollywood Divorce Lawyer

The important piece of information to keep in mind is that the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act allows for the division of military benefits and gives each state the power to decide the specifics of such division. As such, it’s very important to speak with an experienced Hollywood military divorce lawyer about your case. 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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