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Military family law and pension division during divorce

Laws are in place to divide property between Arkansas spouses when a marriage ends. State laws dictate whether military pensions should be split, while military family laws outline the terms under which division takes place. For instance, under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, most ex-spouses may receive no more than half of a service member's retirement.

No single calculation is used to figure out the amount of retirement pay an ex-spouse is entitled to receive. Four methods are available. It's far easier to figure the present-day value of the divisible property after a service member retires, but many military divorces occur during service or after service, but before the member is eligible to start collecting retirement.

A "coverture fraction formula" is use to divide immature military pensions, factoring in what the retirement benefits could be worth in the future. The formula includes an estimated number of years of service. Limits can be set to prevent the percentage or dollar amount from including post-divorce unknowns: increases in the service member's pay and the total length of service.

Deferred military pension division is another option. According to the American Bar Association, many civilian courts disapprove of putting off pension pay division until a divorced service member nears retirement. A postponement flies in the face of the practice of finalizing property division matters at the time of divorce.

Under the deferred option, calculations affecting retirement pay division occur after the value of a pension is known. This eliminates projecting how much the pay will be worth by waiting until all the numbers are in. This method is frequently used when spouses cannot reach an agreement on how property should be divided and when "trading" another asset is not available.

The rules applicable to the division of military pensions are complex. This overview is a starting point for questions that can be directed to a divorce attorney.

Source:, "Getting a Divorce?: How to Divide Military Pension" Garrick G. Zielinski, accessed Feb. 19, 2015

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