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Military pensions can get sticky in divorce process

The number of divorces involving members of the military has been increasing in recent years. Divorce rates for the military have risen to 3.7 percent in 2011, compared to 2.6 percent a decade earlier. The divorce rate is also higher than the general population.

With military divorces come complications that don’t necessarily affect others. For instance, military pensions can be quite valuable, and in the time of divorce, complicated to divvy up.

For example, according to the Wall Street Journal, a lieutenant colonel with the Air Force who has served 30 years would receive a pension of $72,288 per year. If pensions were paid in lump sums, which they are not, it could ultimately be worth $1 million. Clearly, a lot of money can be involved.

If, say, a member of the military with 20 years of service has a pension that’s worth $400,000, in the event of a divorce his wife would be entitled to collect one-half of the amount that accrued during the marriage. So if the couple was married for 10 years of the military service, she would be entitled to $100,000.

If a marriage overlaps military service for a decade or longer, the government will send the ex-spouse benefits directly. However, if it is less time than that, it is the responsibility of the military ex-spouse to provide the money. And if he or she doesn’t, the matter would end up in divorce court.

There’s a lot to consider in any divorce, and it’s even a bit more layered for those in the military.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Divorce: splitting up a rich military pension,” Ellen S. Schultz, March 9, 2012

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