A previous post on this blog touched on how residents of Lakeland, Florida, would have to go about dividing a pension, 401(k) or other retirement plan in the event of a divorce or permanent separation.
As that post discussed, dividing a retirement plan may require jumping through some additional legal hoops even when all parties are in agreement about how it should be divided.
This is even true to a greater extent when it comes to dividing up military pensions. Under federal law, military retirement benefits can be divided up as marital property just like any other pension or retirement plan. Exactly how it gets divided, if at all, depends on what the couple negotiates or, if the couple cannot agree, how the court applies the laws of the local jurisdiction so as to divide the plan.
However, there are still some procedures that those involved in a military divorce or separation need to keep in mind.
For instance, in the case of a marriage that did not last 10 years, it may be difficult to get the military to divide the retirement plan directly, so a decree or agreement will have to ensure that the solider will make sure the money gets paid by other means.
Another consideration is that military personnel do not actually get their pension until they apply for the benefit. Some spouses have unfortunately been known to put off this task, even if they were eligible for pay, just to keep the pension from being divided. A good decree may well include provisions specifying that a solider or sailor will promptly apply for retirement pay when he or she is eligible.