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Dividing Military Pensions

There are several ways that a spouse can obtain their fair share of a military pension.


I've represented numerous client that have spouses that were in the military (service member or "SM") or were the non-military spouse. One of the routine questions that often comes into play is, "what about their/my pension?" There are ways to secure a portion of a military pension.

Reservation of Jurisdiction

This puts off the problem for another day. Under this approach, the court postpones the division until the SM is retired. This allows for a greater degree of certainty in what will be divided, but it puts the former spouse at risk if the SM dies before then and there is no Survivor Benefit Plan coverage for him/her.

Deferred Division

This is often called "if, as, and when" payments. This refers to payments to the nonmilitary spouse that begin when the SM starts receiving pension payments. When the marriage and the length of the service overlap by at least 10 years, DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service) can make these payments and withhold an equivalent amount from the SM's pay; otherwise the SM must make payments directly to the non-service member spouse. This can be a major concern if the SM is likely to move to another state or country upon retirement.

Present-Value Offset

The third approach involves trading money or property against the present-value of the pension. In this scenario, the house and other property, for example, might go to the non-service member spouse and the pension might remain with the SM if they are approximately the same or close to equal value.