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What happens to military retirement after a divorce?

Serving in the armed forces requires making some significant sacrifices. In exchange for your service, you may have earned a pension that is valuable to both you and your spouse. If you are heading for a divorce, though, you must understand what may happen to your military retirement and other service-related benefits. 

If you earned your military pension during your marriage, it is likely part of your marital estate. In Kansas, judges divide the marital estate according to what is equitable. Therefore, each spouse should receive a fair share of marital wealth. When it comes to your retirement benefits, though, federal law is also relevant. 

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act 

The USFSPA authorizes family law judges in Kansas to divide retirement benefits pursuant to state law. When following the equitable division approach, a judge may give some of your retirement benefits to your spouse. To decide what is a fair distribution, judges consider a few factors. Among others, these include the following: 

  • The age of each spouse 
  • The income potential of each spouse 
  • The duration of the marriage 

Instead of asking a court to divide assets, divorcing spouses often negotiate a settlement. If you and your partner can reach an acceptable one, a judge is likely to respect it. 

The 10-year rule  

Many service members and their spouses believe military pensions are only dividable if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. This is not the case, though. On the contrary, regardless of the length of the marriage, a divorcing spouse may seek a share of the pension if the pension is a marital asset. However, the Department of Defense only makes direct payments to divorced spouses if both of the following are true: 

  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years 
  • The marriage overlapped creditable military service by at least 10 years 

As a member of the armed services, you deserve the retirement benefits you have earned. Your soon-to-be ex-spouse may also have a claim to some of your pension, though. By understanding the intersection of Kansas law and federal law, you can better advocate for a fair share of your marital estate.