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The military has its own rules for dividing pensions in divorce

After spending years serving your country in the U.S. Armed Forces, you are well aware of the fact that the military has its own set of rules for many things. How your retirement is divided in a divorce is no exception.

Prior to 1982, state courts didn't have the jurisdiction to divide military pensions. In that year, Congress passed a law giving courts the jurisdiction they needed. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, a North Dakota court may divide the former military member's retirement as it sees fit. The court could award the full amount to the service member, or your spouse could receive a portion. 

Here's where the military added its own rules

So far, your military pension seems to be subject to the same rules as for civilians. This is where the twist comes into play. First, the Department of Defense will make payments directly to your future ex-spouse if you were married for at least 10 years during at least 10 years of your service. The DOD will send no more than 50 percent of your retirement through direct payments, unless the court also ordered alimony and child support. In that case, the maximum rises to 65 percent.

Of course, in order for a state court to be able to divide your military retirement, you must either be under the court's jurisdiction or agree to submit to such jurisdiction.

Here's what the military says about other benefits

Your spouse retains other benefits of his or her time with you and the military. If your marriage lasted at least 20 years and coincided with 20 years of your military service, your spouse retains rights to the following:

  • Use of the commissary
  • Use of medical facilities
  • Use of the military exchange

If there was only 15 years of overlapping service and at least 20 years of marriage, your spouse may retain military medical benefits for one year, unless he or she has employee medical coverage available. If your spouse remarries, these benefits end as well.

Here's where to turn for help with military divorce issues

Because your divorce involves issues that civilians don't have to deal with, you may need more than an understanding of North Dakota's divorce laws. Any mistakes regarding your military pension could end up costing you in the future.

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  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
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