How Military Pensions and Benefits Are Handled in a Divorce

When a military member divorces, the process is significantly more complicated than it is when two civilians divorce. The very nature of military work means that a 50/50 custody split may be impossible, and losing the benefits of military life—including housing and health care—often put a significant burden on the non-military spouse. However, the military member also stands to lose a lot in a divorce—so both parties should know what their rights are and get the legal support they need.

The Frozen Benefit Rule

In 2017, the National Defense Authorization Act changed how pensions are divided among military members and their ex-spouses. In the past, an ex-military spouse could get a larger part of the pension if their ex-spouse received a higher rank after the divorce. Under the new law, a military member’s rank is treated as “frozen” when the divorce happens. The ex-spouse’s share of the pension will be based only on the service member’s rank at the time of the divorce.

Pension Entitlement

Ever since the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act became law, military pensions have been treated as marital property. An ex-spouse may be entitled to half of the pension if the marriage lasted at least 10 years, however, this is negotiable. The military spouse may offer more in other areas of the divorce in exchange for giving up less of their pension, or the non-military spouse may ask for a larger percentage of the pension.

Health Care Benefits

Many soon-to-be-ex-spouses worry about losing TRICARE health benefits. While the service members’ children retain their TRICARE coverage, divorced spouses do lose their TRICARE coverage. Through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit program, an ex-spouse may choose to purchase coverage for up to 36 months after the divorce.

Relocation Assistance

If the service member and their family are living overseas when the divorce takes place, the military may pay for the ex-spouse’s relocation expenses to allow them to leave the overseas duty station. Additional moving costs must be negotiated as part of the divorce settlement.

Child Support and Alimony

Immediately after a couple decides to divorce, the military service member is bound by their branch’s family support requirements. However, these requirements are not a long-term solution. Just as in a civilian marriage, it is crucial to file a court order requesting family support until the divorce becomes final.

With the right support and guidance, you can move through the divorce process with confidence and dignity. At the McConnell Family Law Group, we strive to help each family in “Finding Peace Through Strength.” Take the first step now and contact us at 860-266-1166.

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