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Dividing military pension benefits in a Nevada divorce

Will your military pension or a soon-to-be ex-spouse's military pension be subject to division in your divorce? Generally, yes -- to the extent of the benefits that accrued during the marriage. In a community property state such as Nevada, this would mean that a military pension valued at $200,000 (all of which accrued during the marriage) would usually be split 50/50 in a divorce. If only $100,000 of that amount accrued during the marriage, however, then the non-military spouse would usually be awarded about $50,000.

Unfortunately, dividing military retirement benefits in a divorce isn't always so simple. In fact, it's often highly complicated because the Nevada laws and federal laws that govern the division of military benefits differ in several important ways. One of the most troublesome areas, however, involves marriages that did not overlap a military spouse's service time by at least 10 years.

To give an example for why that is, suppose two couples, Couple A and Couple B, got divorced and each non-military spouse was awarded half of the benefits that accrued during the part of the marriage that overlapped the service time. In Couple A's case, a Nevada family court judge awarded the non-military spouse $50,000 of the $100,000 in retirement benefits that accrued over the course of an 8-year marriage. In Couple B's case, the same Nevada family court judge awarded the non-military spouse $75,000 of the $150,000 in retirement benefits that accrued over the course of a 12-year marriage.

Here's the troublesome part. Collecting the divorce-related award won't be an issue for the non-military spouse of Couple B, but it could be a huge problem for the non-military spouse of Couple A. Here's why: The government won't typically enforce a court order to divide military retirement benefits unless the marriage overlapped the military member's service time by 10 years or more.

Although this particular problem is not insurmountable, it highlights the complicated nature of divorce cases involving military retirement benefits and makes clear the importance of retaining a divorce attorney who has experience dealing with such issues.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Divorce: Splitting Up a Rich Military Pension," Ellen E. Schultz, March 9, 2012

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