A military career can give someone a sense of purpose and stable employment. It also comes with certain benefits, like eligibility for a military pension and housing benefits. The higher your rank and the longer your service, the more comfortable your retirement could be thanks to your military pension.
However, if you believe you will soon divorce, you may worry that your spouse will lay claim to some of your military pension. That could leave you with far less to support yourself during your golden years.
Does the non-military spouse have a claim to military retirement benefits after a divorce?
Military divorce is a lot like civilian divorce
Despite urban myths claiming otherwise, military law does not dictate what happens to your property when you divorce. If you live in Georgia, then Georgia state law is what will guide your divorce proceedings.
You either reach a settlement outside of court by cooperating with your ex or you litigate and a judge applies the state’s equitable distribution rule to your property. Typically, retirement savings and pension benefits accrued during the marriage will be subject to division as marital property. You can protect the amount you earned before marriage as separate property. The Georgia courts will ultimately decide how you split your retirement benefits, but a federal rule will determine who disperses the funds.
How the 10/10 rule helps
The military rule that causes confusion about military retirement benefits is the 10/10 rule. However, this rule does not govern how to split the assets but rather who pays them. If a couple has been married for at least 10 years and the service number has been active duty for at least 10 years during the marriage, then the spouse can expect direct payments from the military from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service for their share of the pension.
Otherwise, they will need to make arrangements as part of the divorce proceedings to address the value of retirement benefits and split the property accordingly because the military will not disperse the funds directly to the non-military spouse.
Learning more about the rules that govern military divorces can help you prepare for the dissolution of your marriage.