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Dividing pensions in military divorces

Retiring military service members who spent at least 20 years in the military will receive a lifetime retirement pension. In 1982, however, with the passage of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, or USFSPA, spouses are permitted to a portion of the service member's pension, which is treated as marital property and divided up in a divorce.

Spouses can receive 50 percent of the service member's military pension if they have been married for at least 10 years and the dates of the service and the marriage overlap. However, few spouses know that the division of a military pension can be negotiated, and this is where the matter can become more complicated. For example, spouses can request half the military pension even in situations where their marriage lasted for less than 10 years, and the service member can ask to give less of his or her pension if they were married for more than 10 years.

Interestingly, spouses might be entitled to a portion of a service member's pension even in situations where they are married for just one day. Also, because the pension can be negotiated, certain divorcing spouses may ask to receive real estate property or other assets instead of a share of the pension. However, this may not be a wise decision considering the volatility of the real estate markets and the overall economy in recent years.

Tennessee family law courts will always attempt to arrive at a fair and equitable asset division ruling that adheres to the law. In addition, spouses will have the ability to negotiate military divorce agreements outside of court so that they stay completely in control of the decision-making process; and, they may want to employ the services of an experience military divorce attorney to assist them in making those agreements.

Source:, "Military Divorce: Dividing Children, Pay and Pensions," Rebekah Sanderlin, accessed Oct. 07, 2016

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