Military Retirement and Divorce
Division of military retirement pay is not mandatory and state laws differ with its treatment. Each state gives the right to treat military retirement pay as marital property; moreover, equal distribution does not necessarily mean an even split of payment. If a mutual agreement cannot be made between the divorcing parties, a lawyer who is experienced in military divorce must be hired.
An example of possible distribution of military retirement pay:
If a military member has served four years unmarried and an additional 16 years married, the total married years of service would be equal to 80% of total years served; therefore, the marital share of the service member’s disposable retirement pay would equal 80%. If the court chooses to award the member’s spouse 50% of the marital share, the spouse would receive 40% of the service member’s disposable retirement pay.
In order to reach an agreement regarding child support, it is best to review state guidelines of the birthplace of the child. If an agreement on child support cannot be made, the court or military legal assistance will intervene. Military guidelines vary depending on which branch of military service is to be involved.
For example, the Navy Personnel Manual provides the following guidance to commanders for determining adequate support:
Spousal support only – 1/3 of gross pay
Spousal support plus one minor child – ½ of gross pay
Spousal support plus two or more children – 3/5 of gross pay
One minor child – 1/6 of gross pay
Two minor children – ¼ of gross pay
Three minor children – 1/3 of gross pay
*Gross pay includes base pay and basic allowance for housing but does not include hazardous duty pay, sea or foreign duty pay, incentive pay or subsistence allowance.
Child custody is decided in the best interest of the child. State laws vary and if a mutual agreement cannot be reached between spouses, consulting a lawyer with experience in child custody is necessary; moreover, discussing a contested custody case with an attorney early on is extremely important.