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Divorce in the Military: How to Divide a Pension

By Sheryl Rentz on March 21, 2012

During a divorce, there are a number of financial issues that may further complicate an already difficult process. One such financial problem is dividing a retirement plan, which becomes a more complex matter when one spouse is in the military. For someone who has served in the military, a pension is typically their largest asset, so the issue of dividing the retirement plan during a divorce affects million of military couples.

In addition, the divorce rates for military couples are higher than those of the general population, increasing to 3.7 percent in 2011 from 2.6 percent in 2001, so understanding the financial matters that can arise during a divorce is imperative for a military couple who have made the decision to file for a Pennsylvania divorce.

A military pension is more valuable than other retirement plans because there is no minimum age; i.e., a person enlisting at age 18 can retire at 38 and receive a pension for the next 40 years, complete with cost-of-living increases. A former spouse is entitled to one-half of the amount that accrued during the marriage. However, the mix of state and federal rules which govern military pensions may make it challenging for a former spouse to collect benefits even if it is awarded by the court during a divorce proceeding.

For example, if the marriage overlapped the period the individual was in the service by 10 years or longer, the government sends the benefit directly to the ex-spouse, but if it is less than 10 years, it is up to the former spouse to send a share of the pension to the other. If the person does not fulfill this obligation, the former partner not receiving the portion of the pension must go to divorce court in the state where the ex-military spouse resides.

As is evident with the issues surrounding the division of a military pension, the financial matters that arise during a divorce can be complicated, and a mistake may cost a person the benefits he or she rightfully deserves. To ensure your financial matters are capably handled, an experienced Montgomery County military divorce lawyer can help ensure a resolution regarding any issues, including the division of a retirement plan, is reached efficiently and is in the best interest of both parties involved. To discuss your case with Sheryl R. Rentz, a knowledgeable PA divorce attorney, please call (866) 290-9292 for a no-cost consultation.

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