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Can I get retirement benefits in a military divorce?

Military members and their loved ones deal with many different challenges. Frequent moves are rarely easy, and time spent apart during deployments can make it hard to maintain closeness in a marriage. Whether this was your experience, or you dealt with other issues, filing for divorce was the best choice you could make in your situation. However, you may have questions about how certain things work during a military divorce.

Just like when civilians get divorced, you will still deal with things like spousal and child support, child custody and property division. But since your ex will receive retirement pay after he or she leaves the military, you will have a little more to think about. Dealing with military retirement benefits is different than dividing money tucked away in retirement accounts.

Do you meet the requirements?

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act mandates that military organizations must accept and then enforce orders for spousal support, child support and retirement pay. The USFSPA also states that military retirement benefits are marital property, but this federal statute only applies to those who can meet the 10/10 rule. You meet the 10/10 rule if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer
  • Your ex served for 10 or more of those years

You cannot claim more than 50% of your ex's retirement benefits. You can negotiate how to divide this asset by using mediation or can defer to Illinois state law. Before moving forward, you should make sure that the state of Illinois has jurisdiction. Different military factors can affect where you can file.

Secure direct deposit for support orders

If your ex-spouse must pay spousal support, child support or payments for military retirement benefits, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will pay you directly. This eliminates the chance of your ex being late or skipping a payment. You will need to submit your order to DFAS to secure direct deposits, which usually start 90 days later.

There is an exception to this, though. If your former spouse is still serving, he or she is not eligible to receive retirement benefits yet. You will have to wait until after those benefits are available to start receiving your share.

It does not have to be overwhelming

Making the first steps toward divorce can be difficult. This is especially true when you realize that you will have to address everything from asset division to child custody. Things only get harder when your spouse is a servicemember.

Military rules can be complicated, so you can expect to face a number of challenges during a military divorce. You do not have to take on the burden of deciphering those rules by yourself. When you choose to work with an experienced attorney, you will have an advocate on your side.

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