Understanding Military Pension Division in Divorce

Posted by Wesley D. WornomOct 19, 20230 Comments

Understanding Military Pension Division in Divorce

When it comes to dividing a military pension in a divorce, jurisdiction is determined based on federal law, in addition to the relevant state laws that apply to pensions generally. There are specific provisions that must be met in order to divide a military pension in a divorce.

It's important to note that VA disability compensation and certain military benefits cannot be divided in a divorce. These benefits are protected and cannot be considered as marital property for distribution.

The 10/10 rule is another important aspect to consider when dealing with military pensions in divorce cases. According to this rule, if the marriage overlapped with at least 10 years of military service, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will make direct payments to the former spouse as ordered by the court.

Proper processing of garnishment orders is crucial in ensuring that the military pension is divided correctly. Garnishment orders, entered by the court and provided to the appropriate office, help facilitate the division of military pensions in divorce cases.

Implications of Military Retirement Orders Entered Before Divorce Finalized: A Case Study

To illustrate the implications of military retirement orders entered before divorce is finalized, let's consider a real-life case study. In this case, a military service member filed for retirement before the divorce was finalized. The retirement order was approved, and the service member started receiving retirement pay.

However, since the divorce was ongoing, the division of the military pension was not yet determined. This created complications for both parties involved. The former spouse was concerned about their entitlement to a portion of the pension, while the service member worried about the potential impact on their retirement benefits.

The case study highlights the importance of addressing military retirement orders before they are finalized. It emphasizes the need for clear communication, proper legal procedures, and timely decision-making to avoid complications and ensure a fair division of assets.

Additionally, the case study also showcases the impact of the 20/20/20 rule on the military ID card for an un-remarried former spouse. According to this rule, if the marriage lasted for at least 20 years, the service member performed at least 20 years of creditable service towards retirement, and there was an overlap of at least 20 years between the marriage and the military service, the former spouse can retain their military ID card.

The "Frozen Benefit Rule" and Its Effects

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA 17) introduced the "frozen benefit rule", which has significant implications for military members going through property division while still serving in the military. This rule requires the division of military retired pay based on the rank and years of service at the time of divorce, regardless of any future promotions or increases in years of service.

The "frozen benefit rule" aims to provide a single uniform method of pension division across all states, superseding state laws and decisions. However, the rule may present challenges for both parties involved and the courts in implementing and enforcing it.

To address the challenges posed by the "frozen benefit rule," several strategies can be employed. These include using permanent spousal support as a substitute for pension division, fixing a specific percentage for the former spouse's share, or utilizing the present value of the pension. Each case may require a tailored approach based on the specific circumstances and the desired outcome.

Protecting Military Members on Active Duty

During divorce proceedings, military members on active duty are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This act provides certain legal protections and rights to military members to ensure they are not disadvantaged while serving their country.

It is important for military members to not ignore divorce papers, even if they have rights to not appear in some proceedings. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in military divorce cases is crucial to understand and protect their rights and interests throughout the divorce process.

Potential Challenges and Considerations for Military Divorce

Military divorces present unique challenges due to factors such as deployment, frequent relocation, and potential impact on child custody arrangements. It is important for both parties involved to understand the implications of military retirement orders and seek proper legal guidance to navigate through the complexities of military divorce.

Seeking Legal Advice and Assistance

Given the complexities of military divorce, it is highly recommended to seek legal advice from professionals who specialize in military divorce cases. Consulting with attorneys familiar with the specific laws and regulations governing military retirement and divorce can provide valuable guidance and ensure the protection of rights and interests for both parties.

There are resources available, such as legal assistance programs and support networks, that cater specifically to military members and their spouses. These resources can provide additional help and support during the divorce process.


Understanding the implications of military retirement orders entered before divorce is finalized is crucial in ensuring a fair division of assets and protecting the rights and interests of both parties involved. The jurisdiction for dividing a military pension in a divorce is determined by federal law, with specific criteria that must be met. The "frozen benefit rule" introduced by the NDAA 17 has significant effects on the division of military retired pay. Seeking legal advice and assistance from professionals experienced in military divorce cases is highly recommended to navigate through the complexities and challenges that arise. By obtaining expert guidance tailored to their specific situations, individuals can ensure a smoother and more equitable divorce process.