DoD Appropriation Bills to Potentially Change Rules for Divorce and Division of Military Pensions

Two U.S. Department of Defense appropriations bills filed before Congress and the Senate could very well change the rules and regulations that govern the division of the pensions of military personnel after a divorce.

If enacted into law, the bills would revoke the power that states traditionally have to partition military pensions. Moreover, it could reduce the share of the pension benefits that former spouses are entitled to receive after separation.

Division of Military Pensions Under Current Law

The situation could look like this: Assume that John, a sergeant major (E-9) in the army, retires after 30 years of service. He had divorced his wife, Jane, 10 years ago, after 20 years of marriage.

This means that they were married for the 20 years that John served in the military. At present, the law states that Jane would receive half, or 50 percent, of the two-thirds (20 out of 30 years) of John’s military pension.

It sounds simple enough, right?

Division of Military Pensions Under the Proposed Laws

But the proposed laws stipulate that, under the same circumstances, Jane would only receive half of John’s military pension as a sergeant first class (E-7)—his rank throughout the 20 years in which they were married.

It might not seem like much, but the loss to Jane, as well as the bonus to John, can be significant when calculated. And things could look even bleaker for Jane, as there is no cost of living adjustment that allows Jane’s share of the retirement fund to rise with time. All adjustments of this nature would only benefit John.

Moreover, the bills would restrict any exemptions that allow divorcing couples to settle their cases in another manner, despite the fact that more than 90 percent of divorce cases are resolved in a settlement. This kind of “fixed benefit” division has been criticized by both the American Bar Association and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers as a form of interference on the court system, as well as lawyers, military personnel, former spouses, and retirees.

If you or a loved are serving, or have served in the military, and are concerned about what these proposed laws could mean for your retirement benefits upon a divorce, talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm today. Schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer by calling our offices at 512.215.5225.