Can Your Spouse Claim Military Retirement Benefits In a Divorce?

Can Your Spouse Claim Military Retirement Benefits In a Divorce?

Particularly here in the North Alabama area, many people frequently ask whether their spouse has a claim to their military retirement benefits or whether they are entitled to any portion of their spouse’s military retirement benefits in a divorce.

Retirement benefits, including military retirement benefits, are considered part of the marital estate and are subject to equitable division and distribution upon divorce. It is important to note that there are additional considerations to go over when the division and distribution of military retirement benefits are at issue in a divorce action.

Notably, it is important to understand what constitutes military retirement benefits. Military retirement benefits include a military pension, which is a defined benefit plan. Further, military personnel may also participate in the Thrift Savings Plan.

The basic relevant law covering military pension division is the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, which Congress passed to allow the states to divide military retired pay. Pursuant to federal law, the court can divide disposable retired pay, and there are several methods for the division of military retired pay to consider in the divorce process. The parties may consider and the court can divide the funds in a service member’s Thrift Savings Plan.

Additionally, when military retirement benefits are at issue in a divorce, it is also important to consider the impact of a Survivor Benefit Plan, which allows retired (or retirement-eligible) active-duty service member’s to provide continued income to specified beneficiaries at the time of the participant’s death as death terminates pension payments. A divorced spouse may receive a survivorship annuity through the service member’s election of former spouse coverage under the Survivor Benefit Plan.

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