There is generally no difference between a “Military Divorce” and a civilian divorce. However, there are differences which should be addressed since they can affect the final outcome of a divorce.
When one party is in the military, a military divorce can be filed in the state where the service member is currently stationed (whether in or outside the U.S.); the state where the service member claims legal residency; or, the state where the non-military spouse resides.
Determining a military member’s income in a military divorce requires specific knowledge and expertise. Service members income can include basic allowances for housing, expenses, and their basic pay. These additional allowances bear on the amount of child and spousal support awarded to one spouse.
Division of Military Pension
The member’s military pension is considered as an asset upon divorce. A service member who has served at least 20 years in the service is entitled to receive a military pension based on a percentage of their basic pay.
Thrift Savings Plan and Federal Employee Retirement System
TSP participants are immediately vested which means that they are entitled to their own contributions and any agency matching contribution. However, there is a minimum amount of time in service a TSP participant must meet in order to be vested in the agency automatic (1%) contributions and associated earnings in their accounts.
If a Federal Employees Retirement System employee separates from Federal service before meeting the TSP vesting requirement, the agency automatic (1%) contributions and associated earnings will be automatically forfeited to the TSP. A FERS employee who dies in service is deemed to be vested in the TSP, no matter how many years of service the employee had completed. Consequently, an employee’s beneficiary will be entitled to all the funds in the employee’s account.
For most FERS employees, the TSP vesting requirement is 3 years. However, employees serving in certain positions only need to complete 2 years of service to meet the TSP vesting requirement.
Former Spouse’s Share of Retired Pay
Former spouses who wish to receive their share of the service member’s retirement directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) must have at least 10 years of marriage overlapping the military service. DFAS requires a division order specify a dollar amount of award or a percentage of retirement pay to divide a service member’s retired pay.
An unmarried “20/20/20” former spouse qualifies for medical benefits and commissary and exchange privileges if the parties have been married for at least 20 years; the service member performed at least 20 years of service creditable for retirement pay; and, there is at least a 20 year overlap of marriage and the military service.
A former spouse who has employer-sponsored medical insurance is not eligible for military medical care or TRICARE. If the employer plan is optional, the former spouse may decline that insurance and remain eligible under TRICARE.
A “20/20/15” former spouse qualifies for medical benefits for one year from the date of the divorce or annulment if the parties have been married for at least 20 years; the service member performed at least 20 years of service creditable for retirement pay; and, there is at least a 15 year overlap of the marriage and military service. A “20/20/15” former spouse who has employer-sponsored medical insurance is not eligible for the one-year transitional medical care. However, if the employer plan is optional, the former spouse may decline that insurance and participate in the one-year benefit.
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