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Do I Have to Divide My Military Benefits in a Divorce?

 Posted on September 27, 2022 in Divorce

Oakland County military divorce lawyerMichigan couples have to resolve several issues before they can finalize their divorce, and asset division is nearly always one of the most difficult of these issues. Spouses who have been married for many years typically share a diverse asset portfolio that is made up of equity in a marital home, savings accounts, and retirement accounts. When one or both spouses served in the United States Armed Forces, there may be military retirement benefits to divide in addition to other assets. 

Regardless of how large or small your marital asset portfolio is, Michigan divorce law requires the marital estate to be divided “fairly.” While fairly usually means each partner gets about half of everything, spouses may agree to other arrangements (such as one partner getting more assets but also more debt). If you are considering a divorce in Michigan and wondering what a fair division of assets could mean for your military retirement benefits, read on. 

Are Spouses of Military Members Automatically Entitled to Retirement Pay? 

Spouses are encouraged to decide how to split their marital property on their own, with the help of a mediator if necessary. If a couple cannot reach an agreement themselves, a judge may intervene and decide for them. There is no law or rule that obligates a Michigan court to award a spouse part of a current or former military member’s retirement pay or benefits, and a judge will only do so if it would be unfair not to. 

However, there are other rules that can affect whether a military spouse is entitled to a portion of his or her spouse’s retirement benefits. To qualify for direct payments from the military spouse’s retirement pay, spouses must have been married for at least 10 years, during which the military spouse must have worked for at least 10 years out of their overall retirement eligibility. This is known as the “10/10 requirement.” Military spouses cannot voluntarily waive this requirement. If the spouses were married for less than 10 years, the non-military spouse can still be awarded a portion of the military retirement pay, but they cannot receive direct payments from the plan distributor. 

Depending on whether a spouse is paying alimony and child support out of their military retirement pay as well, there are varying limits on what percentage of a military spouse’s retirement pay can be taken out for court-ordered awards. If a divorced military spouse dies, all payments going to their former spouse will stop. They cannot be passed on to another beneficiary. 

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Novi, MI Military Divorce Lawyer

Military benefits can make up a substantial portion of a married couple’s net worth. If you are getting divorced and one or both of you are or were members of the U.S. Armed Forces, get legal help from an Oakland County military divorce attorney with Elkouri Heath, PLC. We will fight to protect your fair share of military retirement benefits as part of an overall divorce settlement. Call our offices today at 248-344-9700 to schedule a free consultation. 




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