When you serve in the military, the benefits are numerous. From health care to retirement funds, your service doesn’t go without its perks. Then, when you get married, your spouse also receives these perks along with your children or other dependents.
So, when you get divorced, things can get a bit hairy. How will you be splitting up your military retirement fund? Does the amount of time you were married affect the amount of money your former spouse receives? What are the rules?
Military Spouse Divorce Retirement Pay
Military retirement pay is one of the biggest assets that will need to be split up during a divorce. How much of your retirement benefits that will go to your former spouse depends on how the court settles your case. This decision will depend on factors like how long you were married.
One of the biggest misconceptions about military retirement benefits in terms of a divorce is the 10/10 rule. Many people think that if you weren’t married for at least ten years or if the service member wasn’t on active duty for at least ten years, then the former spouse isn’t entitled to any military retirement funds after getting divorced.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Again, it’s up to the court to decide how your military retirement funds will be divided. The military retirement divorce 10/10 rule means something entirely different.
The military retirement divorce 10/10 rule doesn’t refer to how much an ex-spouse receives, it instead refers to how an ex-spouse receives their portion of a military retirement fund.
If a military couple that is now getting divorced was married for at least ten years and if the service member served qualifying time toward their retirement fund for at least ten years while the couple was married, the non-military former spouse is entitled to receive their portion of the military retirement benefits directly deposited to their account from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
Otherwise, a former military spouse might still be entitled to a portion of your military retirement benefits but they won’t be paid to him or her directly.
Divorced Military Spouse Retirement Pay Calculator
Since every couple’s circumstances are unique, there’s no simple way to calculate exactly how your military retirement benefits will be divided after a divorce. Still, there are some terms you should be familiar with so that you can calculate your own estimations.
The retirement money that the state court is authorized to divide is referred to as your disposable retired pay which is the gross pay (or total pay) minus:
- Amounts owed to the government
- Forfeitures adjudged by a court-martial
- Pay waived to receive VA disability
- SBP premiums for the benefit of the former spouse seeking a share of the retirement
Retirement benefits for former spouses are also affected by what’s called The Frozen Benefit Rule. Enacted in 2016, the Frozen Benefit Rule states that the former spouse’s share of military retirement is “frozen” as of the date of dissolution of the marriage.
The share that the former spouse is awarded will receive the benefit of COLAs but will exclude any further promotions or longevity increases. In short, ex-spouses reserve a share of the benefits that the service is entitled to at the time of divorce, not what they’ll receive at the time of retirement.
If a couple gets divorced after the service member is already retired, using a divorced military spouse retirement pay calculator gets a lot easier since The Frozen Benefit Rule would not apply.
In these cases, the calculation you can do is multiply marital share by the disposable retired pay. Marital share can be calculated by dividing months of marriage overlapping military service by total months of military service at the time of retirement.
- Months of Marriage Overlapping Military Service / Total Months of Military Service at the Time of Retirement
- Marital Share x Disposable Retired Pay = Share of Military Retirement Pay for Former Spouse
Retired Military Divorced Spouse Benefits
Military benefits include a lot more than just a retirement fund. While married, your former spouse had access to health care (Tricare), base privileges, and other benefit funds. So, once you’re divorced, what does your ex-spouse remain entitled to?
Military service members are entitled to base privileges like commissary, exchange, and theater access and whether or not a former spouse is entitled to these privileges is based on what’s called the 20/20/20 rule which states:
- You and your former spouse were married for at least 20 years
- The service member spouse served in the military for at least 20 years
- Your marriage overlapped the time in service by at least 20 years
If all three of these stipulations apply, then the former spouse will retain all base privileges as long as they don’t get remarried.
Tricare is the health care program offered to military service members and former spouses can retain these benefits if they meet the same 20/20/20 rule requirements as listed above.
Transitional Tricare coverage is available for 12 months if you don’t meet the 20/20/20 requirements. Instead, the 20/20/15 rule applies. The difference between these two rules is that your marriage only has to overlap the time in the service by 15 years instead of 20.
Again, these benefits only last for a year after the divorce and won’t apply if you get remarried.
Survivor Benefits Plan
If you were a military spouse entitled as a beneficiary of a Survivor Benefits Plan, you’ll no longer remain so since an SBP is a mutually exclusive agreement. This benefit should be addressed in the divorce settlement.
Military Retirement Divorce and Remarriage
The last thing we’ll talk about in terms of retirement pay and divorce is the matter of remarriage. Former military spouses should be aware that even if they’re entitled to certain military benefits, they won’t be if they decide to remarry.
Still, pension and military benefits are totally separate issues, so let’s clarify.
If you get divorced and you qualify under the 20/20/20 rule, you’ll be eligible to retain Tricare benefits and military base privileges. Once you remarry, however, these benefits go away.
The division of military retirement benefits is decided by the court, not the military. How a remarriage will affect your share of the pension payments should be outlined in your divorce settlement. In general, a remarriage will not change whether or not a former spouse will continue to receive military retirement payments. Under most circumstances, pension payments will only cease if the service member dies.
Overall, when it comes to military benefits in the event of a divorce, it’s obvious that there aren’t any clear-cut answers. Everyone’s situation will be different and it’s important to consult your divorce lawyer when confronted with any questions concerning your military divorce.