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What happens to military pensions during divorce?

Ending a marriage is always a difficult and confusing time. As your family establishes a new routine, you also worry about dividing assets, determining a child custody plan and alimony payments.

However, when one of the divorcing spouses is in the military, divorce can seem even more complicated. Military schedules can impact child custody arrangements, and you have unique military benefits and pension plans that civilian divorces lack. Many divorcing military spouses wonder whether the pension will be divided. If so, how much will each spouse keep?

Equitable distribution of assets

Under Florida law, all marital assets are equitably divided in divorce. As a marital asset, your or your spouse’s military pension is included in this. However, an equitable division does not necessarily mean an equal division. The judge will decide a fair split of all assets and debts.

Disability benefits may influence this

Disabled veterans can elect to forfeit a portion of their retirement benefits in exchange for disability benefits. Unlike retirement benefits, disability benefits are not taxed. Veterans can retain a larger portion of these benefits, making them more valuable and preferred. Additionally, disability benefits are considered separate property, not marital property. If the military spouse decides to collect disability benefits, it could substantially alter your family’s total amount of marital assets and influence how much the other spouse can legally collect during divorce.

Until recently, each state determined whether the military spouse would have to make up this disparity in divisible assets. However, a Supreme Court ruling from May 15th determined that lower courts cannot force military members to contribute other marital assets to the property division to make up for the loss of assets.

What does this mean?

The Supreme Court ruling affecting retirement and disability benefits can have a significant impact on military divorces nation-wide. The ruling may lower the amount non-military spouses receive during divorce, and increase the amount of assets that disabled military members receive.

An experienced military divorce lawyer can evaluate your family’s unique situation and explain how this may impact your divorce.

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