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 A military retirement fund, or pension, is a benefit that is provided to members of the military service once their duty has ended. Like other kinds of retirement pay, military retirement funds constitute a kind of deferred compensation, an arrangement wherein a portion of an employee’s income is paid out on a date after that income was actually earned.

However, unlike other pensions that may allow members to borrow portions of their payment or receive cash sums early, military retirement funds are inflexible.

Once an individual within the military service has completed twenty years of military action, they will be entitled to receive their full pension.

Entitlement of a Former Spouse to a Military Spouse’s Pension

The USFSPA or Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act does not automatically award the spouse of the military member with any of that service member’s retired pay.

Instead, the law permits the state to treat the issue of military disposable retired pay as another form of property within marital law, allowing it to be divided during the divorce proceedings like other marital assets.

USFSPA permits the local court to treat the retired pay of a service member as they would any other civilian pension plan, and under the USFSPA, a court may decide to divide the pension between the two spouses at a particular ratio, or they may award it fully to the service member.

In the event that the fund is awarded fully to a service member, the courts may decide to otherwise compensate the spouse for his or her share of the pension using other marital assets.

Survivor Plan Beneficiary

Under the consideration of the USFSPA, just like a current spouse, a former spouse may be designated as the Survivor Benefit Plan beneficiary of their military partner. SBP is a particular annuity that can allow for retired service members to continue providing some form of income to a particular designated individual in the event of the service member’s death.

Typically, unless a retiring service member specifically requests to be removed from participation or declines involvement, they will be automatically enrolled into the Survivor Benefit Plan.

Usually, if a divorce procedure takes place after the service member has retired, then the court will terminate the beneficiary designation that had originally been in place in favor of the spouse, although coverage can be directed towards the former spouse either by voluntary payments or to comply with a court order.

How to Request a Share of the Military Pension

If you are considering a divorce procedure as the spouse of a service member then it is important for you to focus upon addressing the pension during the proceedings, even if you feel as though retirement appears to be a particularly distant prospect. If your aim is to receive some of your ex-partner’s retired pay, then you will need to obtain a court order dictating the division of his or her military pension.

There are two ways of arranging a court order dictating the division of retirement funds. First, you and your spouse could request to enter into a written agreement between the two of you which dictates how the pension will be divided.

If you and your spouse cannot agree, then you will need to go to trial and allow the court to decide the division for you.

••Minella Law Group Can Help••

If you need help with your military divorce Minella Law Group can help ease the burden and guide you through the process.  For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, call us at (619) 289-7948. We look forward to helping you.



[this article has been updated for 2024]