Do you automatically receive part of a military spouse’s pension?

| Aug 20, 2020 | Divorce

Divorce in general seems to be the subject of a lot of misinformation and myths, but military divorce is particularly plagued by inaccurate information and beliefs. While it is true that military divorce often has different considerations and slightly different outcomes than civilian divorces, they aren’t as different as people might think.

One of the most common misconceptions about a military divorce is the idea that the spouse of a military service member automatically receives a portion of their spouse’s pension. However, despite many people believing that military spouses have an automatic right to pension benefits, that simply isn’t true.

There is no military rule mandating the division of a pension

Although the military has its own rules regarding divorce, including requirements for military members to update certain documents once they complete their divorce, there is no federal mandate for the division of a military pension when a military couple splits up.

Instead, decisions regarding the division of the property owned by the couple will depend on the decisions made by the state courts. In Washington, the courts may divide a portion of someone’s pension or retirement benefits depending on how much value they accrued during the marriage. Other times, they may use the value of the pension to balance out other assets.

Isn’t there a 10-year rule about military pensions?

Quite a few myths have some limited basis in reality. Many people have heard about the 10-year rule regarding military pensions, but few people understand what this rule means. The 10-year rule does not state that there is a requirement to divide the pension in marriages that last a decade or longer.

Instead, the 10-year rule simply states that the military can directly distribute pension benefits and state divorce courts want the marriage last at least 10 years. Any division of the pension will depend on the courts hearing the divorce case.

Military service is one of many factors that can complicate and confuse a divorce. Getting the right help and advice as a service member or someone married to a service member can go a long way toward improving your chances of a positive outcome in a pending divorce.