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What happens to a military pension after a divorce?

When military couples decide to divorce, one of the first topics that both spouses end up wanting to learn more about is what will happen with the service member's pension once they split up. This is especially important for military members who have spent their entire careers on active duty. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) was passed into law in 1982 to address this.

Even before this bill was signed into law, any service member who had spent 20 years or more on active duty was eligible to receive a pension for the remainder of their life. Once USFSPA was signed into law, all military retirement pensions became marital property. Therefore, they are divided up in accordance with Colorado state law -- just like the other assets of a military couple divorcing in this state.

Under USFSPA, any spouse that was formerly married to a service member for at least 10 years is entitled to at least one-half of their retirement pension. It's important that the marriage and the times of service overlap though.

Even still, this is not set in stone. Just as couples can negotiate the division of assets like a home, car, bank accounts and investment portfolios, they can do the same with their military retirement plan. A spouse can even petition a judge for a right to their ex's pension even if the marriage lasted less than 10 years under some circumstances.

In most cases, the military's finance center will be responsible for remitting funds to the non-service member. There are cases, however, in which a Colorado family law judge may decide to order the service member to make payments directly to a former spouse instead. This may especially be the case if negotiations result in a settlement that is different from what's prescribed under USFSPA.

When you've reached the point at which you're ready to throw in the towel on your marriage, you may feel like the underdog -- especially if you've put your career on hold to care for your kids and to move around with your military spouse. If you live in Colorado Springs and you're looking for someone who's going to empower you when you feel helpless, look for an attorney with experience handling military divorces.

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