Military spouses in Alaska are often afraid of what they would lose in a divorce. They fear losing a large portion of retirement funding that they have been building up for years to their ex-spouses. They can lose as much as half of their pensions from the fall out.
There are several variables that go into how much an ex can receive from their military spouse’s retirement funding. Service members should be aware of these different factors before they settle these issues in the courtroom.
How long the couple was married
The couple’s marriage length is one of the most discussed factors towards determining military pension. Rather than getting it directly from the service member, the ex can receive their marital share of the pension from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). However, they can only do this if the couple has more than 10 years of marriage overlapping with the military service.
If the couple has over 10 years of marriage but only seven of those were while a partner was in the military, then the ex cannot receive retirement funding from the DFAS. If the ex was married to the military spouse for over 20 years and there was a 20 year overlap with the military service, they can retain all military benefits and privileges.
Where the court is located
Both spouses may have different preferences towards which court they want the divorce proceedings to occur in. This is unique to military divorces because service members can use their stations and legal domiciles to their advantage.
If the ex chooses their home state of Washington, the military spouse can counter by choosing a court by their station in Alaska. The ex’s court cannot divide the service member’s assets unless the spouse gives their consent to the court’s jurisdiction. Military spouses can use this tactic if they feel the state laws of their ex go against their favor.
If pension money was exchanged
Service members can exchange their pension for other pay and benefits that may not be accessible to the ex. One example is tax-free disability pay, in which the service member must give up part of their retirement pay to receive payments for service connected disabilities.
Because of this, pension division becomes significantly reduced as disability pay cannot count towards the divorce. However, this should be done before the divorce happens. If it is done afterwards, the ex may seek legal aid for a potential counterattack.
Military members need to keep all of these factors in mind when preparing for their divorce to seek any potential advantage in maintaining their pension. They need to be aware of any support and resources available that can aid service members in reaching the settlement they want to get the pension they have worked so hard for.