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Does military law guide the division of servicemembers’ pensions?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2023 | Military Divorce |

Military service can provide someone with an opportunity to support their family. Unfortunately, the challenges associated with service may also undermine someone’s relationships. Service members do sometimes decide to divorce or face a divorce filed by their spouses.

Any divorce is an emotional and difficult process, but military divorces can be some of the most challenging cases. One of the reasons that people struggle with divorce proceedings when one spouse is in the military is that there’s a lot of confusion about what rules apply. For example, many people have heard that there is a military rule addressing servicemember pension benefits. Do military standards determine when people have to divide a military pension?

Military rules do not govern divorce proceedings

Contrary to what most people believe, rules established by the military do not directly control divorce proceedings involving servicemembers. The divorcing spouses are subject to the laws in the state where they file for divorce.

Those currently serving in Georgia are subject to Georgia state law. Georgia has rules for custody matters, financial support and also property division. It is the Georgia equitable distribution statute that determines how people divide a pension in a Georgia divorce. Typically, resources acquired during a marriage are at risk of division, even if they are only in the name of one spouse. A pension can be one of the most valuable assets in a Georgia divorce.

State law or mutual agreement determines how people share a pension, but there is a military rule that can facilitate pension sharing. The 10/10 rule is a military rule clarifying when the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) can send a portion of the pension directly to a military spouse after a divorce.

Generally speaking, the marriage needs to have lasted for at least 10 years, and the servicemember spouse will need to have 10 years of qualifying service during the marriage for DFAS to make direct payments to the non-servicemember spouse. Otherwise, the actual division and distribution of the pension may require a lump-sum payment or regular payments from the servicemember to their spouse.

Learning more about the rules that apply during Georgia divorce proceedings may help people know what to expect as they prepare to negotiate or go to court if they and/or their spouse is a servicemember.