Supreme Court rules on retirement benefits and military divorce

A recent ruling has addressed an issue that faces many military families in Florida and across the nation. The case made its way through the lower courts before finally being taken up by the United States Supreme Court. The outcome clarifies how retirement pay is handled after a military divorce, and gives spouses an idea of how they should plan for their future financial needs.

When the couple divorced in 1991, it was determined that the wife would receive half of her husband's retirement pay once those payments came into effect. When he retired, both parties began receiving monthly payments. Years later, he filed a disability claim, and stated that his degenerative joint disease in a shoulder was the result of his actions during service. That claim was approved, and he began receiving disability payments.

However, in order to comply with a federal rule that prohibits "double-dipping," his retirement pay was reduced to offset the disability pay. Both the man and his former wife began receiving reduced retirement pay. She took the matter to court, and when it came before the Supreme Court, it ruled that she was not entitled to any additional payment.

That means that the veteran will not have to make a monthly payment to his wife to reimburse her for the reduction in her monthly check. Because the matter reached the level of the Supreme Court, she likely has no additional avenues of recourse in the matter. For spouses in Florida who are considering a military divorce, this case underscores the importance of approaching both retirement and divorce planning with the utmost care.

Source:, "Justices Clarify Benefits in Military Divorce Case", Kevin Lessmiller, May 15, 2017

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