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Divorce and retirement: How it is different in the military

As a member or the spouse of a member of the United States military facing the end of a marriage, it can be useful to plan for the unique issues that may surface during a military divorce. Legally speaking, a military divorce is no different than a civilian divorce, but there are special factors that can affect your future.

The majority of the special issues that may be present in a military divorce involve financial matters, such as the division of pension and retirement. When taking this step, it can be useful to seek the guidance of a New Hampshire attorney experienced in the complexities of military divorce.

Military pension and retirement

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act allows states to classify retirement pay as property, not income, a factor that could affect your final divorce order. In order for a former spouse to be eligible for direct payment of military retirement benefits, he or she must have been married for a period of 10 years that overlapped 10 years of military service.

Not being eligible for direct pay does not mean that a spouse is not eligible for a portion of retirement pension. The amount that he or she will receive is part of the final settlement agreement. Calculating the amount that an ex-spouse will receive can be done using the following methods:

  • Net present value: This method is a common choice when one of the spouses wishes to do a one-time buyout of the amount owed.
  • Deferred distribution: A calculation of the amount takes place at the time of the divorce, but there is a deferral of the funds until the service member retires.
  • Reserve jurisdiction: This is the most common choice in military divorce; the determination of the amount a spouse will receive takes place at the time the service member retires.

In addition to military pension, other special factors to consider include commissary use, TRICARE and full base privileges. These entitlements depend on the length of the marriage and if the non-military spouse remarries.

Knowledgeable guidance through a complex process

Military divorce, while similar to civilian divorces in many ways, can be complex, and these couples may face unique challenges. If you wish to protect your military retirement benefits or have questions regarding the benefits that may be available to you as a non-military spouse, you will find great benefit in seeking the counsel of a legal team that is able to effectively guide you toward a strong post-divorce future.

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