What happens to military pensions in Maryland divorces?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2024 | Military Divorce

A career in the military is associated with a variety of different risks. Servicemembers put their lives on the line to defend the country. Even those who climb the ranks within the chain of command have to accept personal risk during training and deployment.

There are numerous secondary hazards as well, including the strain that a military lifestyle puts on a marital relationship. Servicemembers are at risk of divorce, much like others in stressful or demanding careers. They may then worry about how divorce could affect their income, benefits and pensions.

A military pension is one of the most valuable rewards for years of service. Does someone have to worry about sharing their military pension with their spouse if they divorce in Maryland?

Pensions are often marital property

A military pension technically is a benefit earned by one individual. Someone might expect to retain that pension as their separate property when they divorce. However, contrary to that expectation, a pension is probably at least partially marital property. People accrue those benefits during marriage, and therefore it is subject to division under Maryland state statutes. Only those with marital agreements can confidently claim their pensions are not subject to division when they divorce.

There is a common myth that people share misinterpreting a military rule that applies to pensions after a divorce. Some people think a military pension is not subject to division if people divorce after fewer than 10 years of marriage. However, that is not true. The 10/10 rule for military pensions only influences how a servicemember distributes pension resources, not whether they have to do so.

If a marriage lasted at least 10 years and there were 10 years of active service during the marriage, then the non-military spouse can receive direct pension distributions from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). Otherwise, spouses need to make alternate arrangements to address a pension after shorter marriages or marriages with fewer years of active military service.

Understanding what rules apply to military divorces in Maryland can help people prepare for a major family change. Those who know what assets are subject to division can use that information to plan for the future.