While many of the processes and rules for military divorce are the same as in a civilian divorce, there are also some key differences, particularly concerning military pensions and benefits.
Pensions Are Marital Assets
One of the most important benefits available to service members is a military pension, which begins to accrue at enlistment. Pensions are a marital asset and spouses may be entitled to a share of those pension benefits in a divorce.
Other Key Benefits
Service members are also entitled to many other benefits that will come into play in a military divorce and must be considered in divorce proceedings:
- Service members can participate in a defined contribution plan, which is more commonly called a Thrift Savings Plan or TSP and is similar to a 401k.
- In addition to retirement plans, service members and their families receive Tricare benefits. Tricare is the U.S. military health care program that functions as a government-managed health insurance.
- Service members have access to the GI Bill to help pay for higher education for themselves or immediate family members after a meeting a required number of years of military service.
- Depending on the military branch, members and their families are eligible to fly free on military transport planes.
- Service members are eligible to shop at a base commissary where they and their families can buy discounted groceries and other items tax-free.
- Service members are sometimes eligible for enhanced civil pensions after they separate from the military and accept jobs in the private sector.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act
As noted in Florida Military Divorce Series – Part 1, the laws in the state in which you file will play at least a partial role in how benefits are handled in a divorce, as will the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). Under the USFSPA, former spouses don’t automatically qualify for a portion of the service member’s retirement pay—they must meet certain requirements first.
Leave and Earnings Statement
The military Leave and Earnings Statement is a good place to start in trying to determine what benefits may be available when divorcing a service member. Family Attorney Tanya O’Connor is experienced in military divorce cases and can advise you on all your options, including, if both parties agree, working out a private settlement where benefits and other assets are weighed in terms of short and long term value and negotiated for the best outcome.
Attorney O’Connor is experienced with Florida military divorce and is available to serve you in Tampa Bay, Brandon, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Plant City, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County and Osceola County.