What are the rules for dividing military pensions in divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2024 | Military Divorce

Going through a divorce requires that assets are divided. For those who have given their life service to the military, the pension that comes with the service is a primary asset of the marriage. 

Understanding the division of military pension in a divorce is a complex but crucial aspect of divorce for impacted individuals. The federal government has set specific rules under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) that govern how military pension is treated in a divorce

Federal guidelines under the USFSPA

The USFSPA allows state courts to treat military retirement pay as sole or community property, depending on the state. It doesn’t automatically grant a former spouse a portion of a member’s retired pay. 

A crucial aspect of the USFSPA is the 10/10 rule, which stipulates that for direct payment from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), the couple must have been married for at least 10 years, overlapping with 10 years of military service.

Washington state laws and military pension

As a community property state, Washington views all property acquired during a marriage as jointly owned. This includes military pensions whether the service member is actively serving or retired. The state court will typically divide the military pension as it deems fair, which doesn’t necessarily mean an equal split.

Determining the divisible pension amount

The amount of the pension subject to division depends on various factors. These include the length of the marriage, the overlap of the marriage with the military service and the service member’s rank and years of service during the marriage. 

This is a complex part of property division, so anyone with this factor in their divorce should have someone who understands how they work. Remember, this is only one part of the property division process.