Pensions, Divorce and the Military Retirement System
Key Points
  • Unlike other government benefit retirement plans, the couple must be married for 10 years of active duty service; otherwise an order would be drafted to effectuate support payments. During the 10 years, the member must have been on active duty.
  • As with all government plans, the military retirement system also precludes the alternate payee from the survivor benefit plan annuity if she or she marries before the age of 55.
  • The member must make an election within one year of the divorce for the alternate payee to be eligible for the survivor benefit plan annuity. If the member does not make this election, all rights of the alternate payee to the benefit is lost.

The Military Retirement System provides benefits to members of the uniformed forces:

Examples: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, National Guard, Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

When a Retired Pay Court Order is drafted, monthly benefits will commence to the Alternate Payee when the Member retires, and will continue for the lifetime of the Member. If the Alternate Payee is entitled to a Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity (SBP), such monthly annuity shall commence upon the Member's death, and continue for the lifetime of the Alternate Payee.

Some Key Facts to Remember:

To draft an order to effectuate a division of a benefit for purposes of equitable distribution, the parties must have been married for 10 years while the member was in active duty. If they have not been married for 10 years of active duty service, the order must be structured to effectuate support payments.

In order for an Alternate Payee to be eligible for a Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity (SBP), the Member must make such an election within one year of the divorce. If this election is not made, the Alternate Payee loses all rights to this benefit.

If the Alternate Payee remarries prior to reaching 55, he/she will not be entitled to a Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity under the guidelines of the Plan.

Suggested Reading
Pension Issues in Divorce Pension Issues in Divorce
When couples get divorced they must decide how to divide their property. Retirement benefits (pensions) often form a substantial part of the parties' total marital estate and many times are the largest single marital asset afforded the couple. Similar to other assets, pensions are typically divisible in cases of divorce to the extent that they are acquired during the period of marriage.

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