Protecting your military pension can be a top concern if you are a servicemember divorcing or already divorced in Washington. Many military members wonder: Can my ex-spouse claim a part of this pension after divorce?
Federal laws do not entitle former spouses to a member’s military retired pay. For your ex to collect part of your military pension after divorce, the award must have been part of your settlement. Whether this happens will depend on some critical factors.
One primary factor in whether and how state courts will divide military pensions is jurisdiction or the official permission to make judgments. A state has jurisdiction only if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You, as the servicemember, are a legal resident in the state
- You, as the servicemember, reside in the state for reasons not related to military assignment
- You consent to the state’s jurisdiction to divide your pension
If you don’t meet any of these, then the state will not have jurisdiction to divide your pension.
Property division agreements
Military pensions are marital assets, per the terms of The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). Thus, parties will address division in the same way they divide other community property, such as a home, personal property and finances.
Through negotiation or litigation, you will determine if you will divide the pension and how much your ex will collect. These elements will depend a great deal on factors like:
- The length of your marriage
- The duration of your service
- The number of years your marriage and service overlapped
- Your ages
- Your health
- Other assets and liabilities
Pension payments will not start until you are eligible for retirement, which could be decades from now. In some cases, keeping a larger share of your pension in exchange for assets with more immediate value could be possible.
Ultimately, the division of your pension will depend on what you or the courts decide during your divorce.
Because military benefits, including pensions, can be quite valuable, they can be a hot-button issue for divorcing servicemembers. Protecting these assets can take diligent work and legal guidance so that you can pursue the desired outcome.