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Dividing a military pension during a divorce

The process for divorce in Virginia is often different for military families than it is for civilians. One example regards the splitting up of military pensions. This process uses a different set of rules than the division of other retirement benefits. That set of rules is known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act.

In short, the USFSPA provides that a state court may distribute some of a military pension to an ex-spouse as part of a divorce agreement. There are, however, significant exceptions to this rule. 

Military OneSource discusses some of the limitations of this military divorce asset division law on its information portal, namely that the USFSPA is unable to:

  • Guarantee a former spouse access to retirement benefits
  • Require a state court to divide retirement pay
  • Mandate ex-spouse access to commissary or healthcare facilities

Another thing the USFSPA does not do is provide a set of specific rules for division of pay. This is typically left to the state courts, and therefore often decided by the parties involved in the divorce. According to the Department of Defense, the government body that oversees military pensions, court orders may describe future retirement benefit division in terms of a formula. 

The DoD also states that it considers these formulae as percentages for the purposes of its own internal operations. To restate, the federal law governing military divorces does not require the division of military pensions. However, it does give ex-spouses a chance to divide some of the most important assets in a marriage as well as potentially retain access to military amenities. 

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