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High-asset divorce involving military pension

In Maryland and elsewhere across the United States, the rate of military divorce is markedly higher than the divorce rate within the general population. Adding to the tension of being in the military and going through the divorce process is the fact that military divorces have the potential to be high-asset divorces due to military pension.

Those who served in the military, depending on the length of service, could be entitled to substantial pensions. These pensions can often be the largest asset within the marriage. Furthermore, there is no minimum age required at which military personnel can retire. Depending on the length of the marriage, the spouse could be entitled to as much as half of the potentially substantial pension.

If the marriage coincided with the length of service by a minimum of 10 years, then the government will deliver the portion of the pension that the ex-spouse is entitled to directly to that individual. However, if the length of marriage overlaps with the service length by less than 10 years then the court order will not be enforced.

This could potentially drive the ex-spouse to take the military spouse to court in the military spouse’s state, be that in Maryland or elsewhere, which can potentially be costly. The nonmilitary spouse should be aware of this circumstance and would possibly do well to negotiate something like alimony, which cannot be changed.

Furthermore, in military divorces that are high-asset due to the military pension, it would behoove the nonmilitary spouse to file for survivor benefits so that if the ex-spouse were to survive the military spouse the survivor would continue receiving benefits.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Divorce: Splitting Up a Rich Military Pension,” Ellen E. Schultz, Mar. 9, 2012

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