How does a military divorce affect pensions and benefits? 

Posted by Zachary A. VanDykeAug 04, 20210 Comments

Military divorces are much like civilian divorces in many aspects. However, military divorces do have some special rules that can complicate support payments, pensions and access to military benefits. 

If you're the spouse of a service member, it's important to understand how the military's rules can affect your split.

The 10/10 rule for military divorces

In cases of civilian divorce, retirement benefits are subject to property division among the spouses. Military pensions are often not exempt either. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA), military pensions may be treated as personal property or marital property depending on the state where the divorce is taking place.

To qualify to receive a portion of military retirement directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), there is a 10/10 rule. The marriage must have lasted at least ten years and ran concurrently with at least ten years of military service for the non-military spouse to receive a share of the military member's retirement benefits. 

The 20/20 rule for military divorces 

If a couple has been married for twenty years that occurred during twenty years of military service, the non-military spouse can retain access to military health benefits and access to the commissary and exchange even after their divorce from the service member. This is in addition to any other benefits you may receive, such as a portion of your ex-spouse's retirement benefits. 

If facing divorce as the spouse of a service member, it can be helpful to have a clear understanding of the intersection between military, state and federal law. Experienced guidance can make the entire process much easier.