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How does divorce affect a military pension or disability benefits?

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2024 | Blog, Family Law

Divorce brings substantial changes to any family. However, a military couple has unique considerations about asset division of benefits.

Military pensions and disability pay are significant benefits from long-term service and could become a complex matter during proceedings. Understanding the rules surrounding these payments can prevent confusion or unpleasant surprises.

Pensions and the 10/10 rule

In New Jersey, any assets a couple acquires during the marriage are typically subject to an equitable split between spouses. This includes military pensions, no matter the duration of the marriage. However, certain federal laws and regulations add some complexity to the issue.

One common source of confusion is the 10/10 rule. This rule addresses when a nonmilitary spouse qualifies for direct payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. If the marriage lasted for at least 10 years and overlapped with 10 years of military service, DFAS may make direct payments to the nonmilitary spouse.

A key fact is that this rule does not determine whether the nonmilitary spouse has a right to a share of the pension. Typically, this income will be subject to division. Rather, the rule dictates the DFAS’s involvement in the distribution process.

The rules about disability pay

The purpose of disability payments is to support service members who cannot perform their duties due to injuries or disabilities. Since these payments are not disposable retirement pay, the court cannot divide them between spouses in a divorce.

However, confusion may arise here as well. While not subject to division, the court can still count disability pay as an income stream when deciding on spousal or child support.

Many other rules pertain to military pay and benefits during divorce. Therefore, it makes sense for anyone going through a military divorce to carefully review all circumstances to protect assets and negotiate a fair deal.