Is a Military Divorce Different?

by | Nov 30, 2023

A divorce that involves someone that is in the military or that has a military pension, encompasses some crucial elements that are different from a civilian divorce. These elements include the division of a current military pension when the service member is already receiving retirement benefits. Calculating the portion of the pension that is to be allocated to a former spouse in the future involves different considerations, depending on whether you are an active-duty member, Reservist, or National Guard member who is not yet receiving their pension. There are additional requirements with a survivor benefit plan, its allocation to a former spouse and federal regulations governing the ex-spouse’s eligibility for healthcare through programs like TRICARE.

Other Factors in a Divorce with Military Benefits

  • VA disability payments received or potentially received by the service member, cannot typically be divided, thus not granting any portion to the former spouse.
  • GI Bill benefits, which could be transferable to a spouse or children, also demand careful timing before the divorce is finalized.
  • If a service member doesn’t serve long enough to retire but later works for the federal government, there is a possibility to purchase military service time for inclusion in their federal pension, but there are specific conditions for that to occur.

The Martial Settlement Agreement

It is crucial to address all these aspects and incorporate the relevant language into the Marital Settlement Agreement to address all of the nuances of military divorce.  After a 20-year career in the Air Force, I have a deep understanding of military terminologies, acronyms, and intricacies related to these matters.  In addition, my personal experience of going through divorce further informs my perspective and allows me to empathize and help those who are navigating similar situations.

Divorce Process Options 

The divorce process options for those with military related divorce is the same as civilians. You can opt for self-representation, Mediation, Collaborative Divorce, or traditional litigation. The advantage of choosing Mediation and the Collaborative Process is that those choices empower both the service member and their spouse to retain more control over the divorce outcome. Unlike traditional litigation where a judge makes decisions, Mediation and Collaboration allow more flexibility for the couple to craft solutions that suit their unique family dynamics. This freedom permits creative and mutually agreeable resolutions beyond rigid constraints, making the choice of process a critical decision in the divorce journey.

A divorce that involves someone that has spent time in the military has some significant differences and decisions to make, compared to a non-military related divorce. The primary difference is how to divide the important and varied benefits that come from military service. The process for division of these benefits is drastically different from dividing 401Ks and other types of pensions, therefore it is crucial to have an experienced financial expert in military divorce as part of your divorce team.

To schedule a consultation or for more information call 850-252-6325.


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