What happens to military pensions in divorce?

When you are a service member for over 20 years and retire after 20 complete years of active service, you receive a retirement pension for the remainder of your life. This pension can be a major source of income for your family at a relatively young age. When you decide that you want to separate from your spouse, this can also draw concerns.

As the military member, you deserve what you’ve earned. However, you also have been using this as a way to support your family, and that means that it is a marital asset.

Is a military retirement account considered to be a marital asset? Why?

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act passed in 1982, giving spouses of military members protections they did not have in the past. Since 1982, military pensions have been treated as marital assets, meaning that they can be divided during a divorce.

If you were married for 10 years or longer, your spouse could be entitled to half of your pension. This is negotiable, though, which is something you’ll want to discuss with your attorney. It’s normal for a spouse to get 50 percent of that pension if he or she has been married to the military member during the time the spouse spent serving.

You have the option to ask that your spouse receive less, though. For instance, if you got married five years ago and have no children, your spouse may not be entitled to as much of your pension. If your spouse has a retirement pension of his or her own or has worked a stable job, then he or she might not need as much to even out your assets during divorce. You could also suggest splitting retirement assets, like your 401(k) or other savings instead of dividing your military pension.

It’s not a guarantee that your spouse will obtain part of your pension, and if you want to protect it, you’ll need to negotiate between your attorneys to make that happen.