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What will happen to my military retirement in my divorce?

If you are in the military and have a pension, you likely have concerns regarding what will happen to that money during your divorce. Will you be able to keep your retirement intact? Will your spouse walk away with a significant portion of your savings? These are important questions, and you would be wise to approach these issues with the help of an attorney experienced in the complexities of a military divorce.

Who gets what?

While Colorado divorce laws can affect your military divorce, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act is a federal statute that allows for the treatment of military pension as property instead of income. Whether you are the military service member or a non-military spouse wondering what you are entitled to, you may benefit from knowing some of the following about divorce, pension and the military:

  • Direct retirement payments always come through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
  • For an ex-spouse to receive direct payments, the duration of the marriage must be at least 10 years overlapping with at least 10 years of military service.
  • Being ineligible for direct pay through DFAS does not mean that an ex-spouse does not have a rightful claim to a portion of retirement savings.
  • An ex-spouse cannot receive more than 50 percent of his or her ex-spouse's pension payments.

There are multiple ways to calculate the appropriate share of military pension that an ex-spouse can receive. The three ways to do this include:

  • Identifying the amount of payment by calculating the net present value of the pension account is common if the spouses prefer a one-time buyout.
  • Deferred distribution when determining the share amount occurs at the time of the divorce, but there is a deferral of payments until the military spouse retires.
  • Reserve jurisdiction is the most common method, and this occurs when the calculation of the amount designated for the ex-spouse is done at the time of the military service member's retirement.

The division of military pension is one of the most common sources of confusion and conflict during a military divorce. Regardless of your position on this matter, an attorney with experience in these unique issues can help you protect your rights and advocate for a strong post-divorce future on your behalf.

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