Equitable division of property and the value of military pensions

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The division of property and assets in a divorce is never an easy process and when that property includes a military pension it can be quite a challenge to determine a fair asset value. As many Missouri military families may already know, military pensions are unique in that there is no minimum age in which a person can receive a pension.

For example, someone who enlisted at the age of 18 can retire at the age of 38 and collect his or her pension for the next 40 years. And that pension will include any cost-of-living increases throughout its entirety. Since a spouse is entitled to half of the amount of a pension accrued during the marriage, a military pension can be a substantial asset when determining an equitable division of assets during a divorce.

If the marriage exceeded ten years of the spouse’s service period, the government will send a partial benefit to the ex-spouse. However if it is less than ten years they do not enforce an order, thus it is up to the service member to send the court-ordered amount to his or her ex-spouse. And if the military spouse lives in another state the ex-spouse must go through that state’s court to enforce the court order.

For millions of military couples, as well as non-military couples retirement plans and pensions are often the largest asset in their marriage. Federal and state rules regulate military pensions, and there are important deadlines and documents that need to be filed in a timely manner, such as survivor benefits. Survivor benefits ensure the spouse continues to receive benefits should the pension holder pass away. Not filing the necessary survivor paperwork in a timely manner can be a critical misstep in the divorce process.

When pensions are involved one option for ensuring an equitable distribution of the pension’s value is to alter the alimony or spousal maintenance support amounts to include the value of ex-spouse’s share of the pension amount. An experienced attorney can help you understand everything that is involved and ensure all aspects are considered for an equitable division of the marital property in your divorce.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Divorce: Splitting Up a Rich Military Pension,” Ellen E. Schultz, Mar. 9, 2012

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