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Military divorce proceedings: Who gets the retirement benefits?

Imagine you're a military service member, and your spouse of ten years has filed for divorce. You're probably experiencing a lot of difficult emotions and psychological turmoil. You may also be worried about something: What's going to happen to your retirement pension? This is an important concern. In fact, depending on your marital history and family situation your spouse may have the right to a significant amount of your pension.

Just like any other kind of retirement benefits, your military benefits are divisible in the divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) states that state courts can divide military retirement pay in divorce proceedings as if it were a part of the marital estate. The USFSPA doesn't offer a specific formula for breaking up the retirement pension between the spouses. However, Ohio law does -- and these laws must be adhered to in the divorce process.

Once the award of benefits has been determined, the military retirement benefits will go directly to the spouse intended to receive them -- paid by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). But that only happens if the spouses have been married for at least 10 years, and it only happens if the 10-year marriage overlapped with 10 years of military duty. This is called the 10/10 rule.

If the couple doesn't satisfy the 10/10 rule, a state court can still award military benefits but they must be paid by the retired spouse receiving the benefits and not by the DFAS.

Are you getting divorced, and are you or your soon-to-be ex in the military? You may have specific rights that are different from normal divorce laws in Ohio, so make sure you discuss your case with an attorney who is experienced with military divorce law.

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