Being in the military comes with many benefits, such as pensions, and these issues will affect divorce proceedings. They are part of the reason that military divorce is so much more complex and different from civilian divorce. Like every other part of a marriage, these benefits must be divided in a way that the court determines to be fair and equal to both parties.
While it would be wonderful to explain exactly how military pension and retirement is handled in a divorce case, it is never that simple. Every case is different, and the courts address the issues on a case-by-case basis to ensure that one party is not favored over another in a divorce. However, there are guidelines which can give at least some indication of how military retirement will be handled in a divorce.
Generally speaking, military retirement will be divided by the courts based on a number of factors such as how long a couple was married and how much of that marriage took place during the military member’s service. However, if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years during at least 10 years of military service, then military retirement will be paid directly to the former spouse by the DFAS. This means that if you served in the military for 17 years, and after your first three years of service you were married, and you then divorced after 10 years, your retirement will be affected.
Of course courts can also authorize this direct payment even if the marriage did not last for 10 years, which comes back to each case being unique. Additionally, these guidelines do not cover state-specific laws or precedents, so there could be even more differences in a military divorce that happens in Texas compared to a military divorce that happens in California. The best way to be sure about how your military divorce will play out is to meet with an attorney who has familiarity with military divorces in your state.