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Military pensions can be a major issue in gray divorces

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2021 | Military Law |

When a couple that has remained married for decades gets divorced later in life, people call that a gray divorce. Gray divorces involve different concerns than divorces that occur earlier in life or after a shorter marriage.

Often, gray divorces take place right before or even during retirement, meaning that the spouses are in a vulnerable financial position. Retirement savings and pensions can often become a major source of conflict.

When the gray divorce involves a military servicemember, the situation may seem even more fraught. A military pension can be a very valuable benefit. What happens to a military pension in a gray divorce?

State law or marital agreement determine the division of the pension

There is a lot of misinformation out there about what happens to a military pension in a divorce. Some people mistakenly think that the military has to play a role in dividing the pension. However, it is actually the family law judge overseeing the divorce who will apply Texas state law to your marital assets.

A military pension, or at least the portion accrued during the marriage, may be vulnerable to division as part of a couple’s community property. When the couple has a marital agreement, that may determine how they split their property, including the military pension. Otherwise, Texas community property laws apply. The courts will ultimately determine how to divide the pension, and then the length of the marriage determines how the couple functionally splits the pension benefits.

The 10/10 rule determines who distribute pension assets

There is a military rule for pension benefits in a divorce. The 10/10 rule states that if the couple has been married for 10 years or longer and the servicemember had 10 years of active duty during the marriage, then the other spouse can expect to receive direct disbursement of pension benefits from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Otherwise, alternate arrangements for distributing the pension benefits will be necessary.

Couples may fight intensely over the division of their assets during a divorce, including potentially valuable military pension benefits. Knowing what happens with your assets can help you prepare for a military divorce after a long marriage.