Dividing a military pension (Part 3: Important issues)

The first part of this series dealt with preparation for dividing a military pension for a divorce. The second part of th is series dealt with the division of the military pension. This post will detail some of the important issue surrounding the division of a military pension for a divorce.

10/10/10:This refers to 10 years of marriage, plus 10 years of military service, plus 10 years of overlap between the marriage and service. A spouse must have 10/10/10 in order for the DFAS to send military retirement payments to the spouse. However, the spouse may still collect a share of retired pay without the 10 year overlap, so long as it is paid directly by the servicemember.

20/20/20: This refers to 20 years of marriage, plus 20 years of military service, plus 20 years of overlap between the marriage and service. A former spouse of a servicemember may qualify for full medical benefits if he/she is 20/20/20 and has not remarried. Spouses of shorter term marriages can try to get medical benefits through the Continued Health Benefit Program.

Life Insurance: Servicemembers may have Servicemembers Group Life Insurance ("SGLI"). However, the court cannot enforce agreements or orders that require the servicemember to carry SGLI for the spouse - so don't try.

Disabilities: The military retiree can sometime unilaterally reduce the spouse's military retirement payments. Certain types of disability compensation (VA disability compensation, Combat Related Special Compensation) will reduce the DRP of the servicemember and thus the payments to the ex-spouse. Following a Supreme Court decision, the courts cannot divide VA disability compensation. So, when a military retiree has a VA disability rating of less than 50%, election of VA payments means a dollar-for-dollar reduction of retirement pay to the spouse. Accordingly, any relevant court order or agreement must consider whether to have indemnification language in case of such a unilateral reduction.

Remember that this is just a brief and general description of the process. You must consult with your attorney to determine the right process, route and language for you. Dividing a military pension is extremely complicated, so it is vital to find an attorney who can conclude the process properly.