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Who has a right to a share in a military pension in a divorce?

Military service members in the Fairfax and Leesburg areas perform the crucial and honorable role of protecting our nation’s interests. However, a marriage in which one or both spouses are members of the military can be challenging. Long deployments and frequent moves can take a toll on a marriage. Even long-lasting marriages in which one or both spouses are service members can ultimately crumble, leading to divorce.

For military spouses who are near retirement or who are already retired and are facing divorce, what happens to their spouse’s military pension is often a primary concern. After all, a military pension is a very valuable asset that both spouses intended to rely upon during their retirement. This post will debunk some common myths about the division of military pensions in a divorce.

What are some myths about military pensions in a divorce?

Many spouses may think that there is some “magic formula” used when dividing a military pension in a divorce. This is not true. State courts, including those in Virginia, consider military pensions to be marital property, meaning that both spouses have an interest in them for property division purposes.

Spouses may also assume that a military pension can be divided between the spouses in a divorce only if their marriage lasted 10 years or more. This is also not true. Courts in Virginia can award one spouse a share of the other spouse’s retirement pension, even if the parties were married for less than one year.

However, it is important to note that in order for direct payments of a military pension to be made by the Department of Defense to a spouse following a divorce, the spouses must have been married for 10 years or more, with a minimum of 10 years of their marriage overlapping the time in which the military spouse was in service that provided the benefit of the military pension.

Do not try to handle a military divorce alone

Ultimately it is important for both spouses in a military divorce to seek legal advice regarding their right to a share of a military pension. Attorneys in Virginia have a wealth of resources at their disposal when it comes to advising on property division and other divorce legal issues, especially when one or both spouses have a significant source of income. It is important that any property agreements executed ensure that both parties maintain an appropriate quality of life. Whether spouses to a military divorce negotiate their divorce out-of-court or whether their divorce is taken to court, having a dedicated attorney at their side is of the utmost importance in ensuring a fair result is reached.