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How would my military pension be handled in a divorce?

While couples in Texas can find divorce to be complicated and stressful, military families may have to struggle especially hard to navigate through a divorce. Many Texas families have one or both spouses either serving in or retired from the military. During a divorce, how are military pensions, salaries and benefits counted during this time of change? It is handled differently than non-military families and it can be a more complex divorce if one or more spouses are on active deployment.

Retirement pay is then counted as a property award and must be calculated as either a specific payment amount in dollars or as a percentage of a soldier's disposable retired pay. This percentage is determined subtracting all legal "deductions" from a soldier's gross pay.

If the couple decides to end their marriage while the service member is still on active duty, then the former spouse's share of the military pension may be estimated based on a reasonable calculation of what the soldier's retirement pay might be. Under federal law, a spouse will receive a fixed percent of a soldier's "disposable retired pay," whatever amount that disposable pay might be. A spouse need not obtain a qualified domestic relations order before getting a share of the retirement, provided of course that a valid court order specifically sets out the terms of payment.

Also, Texas residents should note that if a spouse is actively deployed during the divorce, the Service Member's Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives the deployed soldier certain rights that a Texas court must respect during the divorce proceeding. This may affect how retirement pay is calculated and divided.

As you can see, the division of assets can be much more complicated when one or more spouses are or were military members. There is even more regulations if one or both spouses are actively deployed at the time of the divorce. The regulations set forth by the USFSPA are meant to protect both the enlisted and the family of the enlisted. Because military member are afforded special benefits and pay, the divorce proceedings must account for this.

Source: dfas.mil, "Military members rights," Accessed December 1, 2014

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