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Military divorce and retirement benefits

Military divorces can be more complicated than those civilians have to deal with, and one reason for this is the difference in benefits. Spouses who were married to a service member for a long time may be eligible to get part of the military retirement benefits in the divorce settlement, but it can be confusing to understand what you qualify for and what documentation and paperwork you need.

In any divorce, but particularly those involving military retirement benefits, it is absolutely essential to have as much information as you can possibly get. Understanding what retirement benefits your ex is eligible for is the first step to knowing if you may receive part of that in the divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act is the main provision that allows for this division, but it's also important to be familiar with the other federal statutes and guidelines that spell out the particulars.

Once you understand what your rights are, getting the correct documentation and forms together is key. Possible paperwork you might need include the Retiree Account Statement, Leave and Earnings Statement, discharge papers, SBP election forms, Retirement Points Statement and retirement orders. Which of these you need depends on whether your ex is active or retired at the time of the divorce.

If all of this sounds a bit complicated and overwhelming, that's because it is. However, having someone who is used to dealing with military divorces and understands the particulars of the laws and guidelines can help take a large portion of this burden off your plate and allow you to focus on yourself and navigating this difficult time.

Source: American Bar Association, "Ten Commandments for Handling Military Retirement Benefits," Mark E. Sullivan and Amy M. Privette, accessed Sep. 04, 2015

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