Don't confuse the 20/20/20 rule with the 10-10 rule in a military divorce

Military pensions have unique rules that apply during divorce

Serving in the military is a great source of pride for millions of Americans. They serve their country and as part of their reward for that service, they receive a decent retirement and healthcare benefits. But military service in the last decade or so has become a very challenging environment in which to maintain a marriage and avoid a divorce.

With many overseas deployments and multiple tours of duty, even the strongest marriage can see strains and stresses. For some spouse, left behind in the states, the stress of becoming single parents while their spouse is deployed can be great.

And even for long-term marriages, the distance and frequency of deployment may not make the heart grow fonder. There may also be issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where their husband or wife may come back different, having been profoundly affected by their duty and what they have experienced.

The other spouse may finally want out. They simply cannot deal with it any longer and they may have grown apart, no longer the innocent couple they were in their early 20s. Now, in the 30s or 40s, they want a change.

Military Divorce in Georgia

With a military divorce, there are many similarities with a civilian divorce. Divorce law remains a state law action, so an Army officer at stationed at Fort Benning or an Air Force Sergeant at Dobbins Air Reserve Base who wanted a divorce would file the action in a Georgia family court.

However, there are some important differences. For one, the non-service member may be entitled to a share of their spouse's military pension or retirement benefits. Because this guaranteed by the federal government, it is much more secure than any private pension, and if you are eligible to receive a portion of this asset, you want to be certain you attorney understands how to ensure this happens.

The division of this asset is governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) and the individual rules on how the pension will be divided are created by the states. The USFSPA contains some limits on how the retired pay may be divided, such as limiting it to 50 percent of the retired disposable pay. In addition, the pay is divided pursuant to a Military Pension Division Order (MPDO).

Two important aspects of a military pension are the 10-10 rule and the 20/20/20 rule.

10-10 Rule

The 10-10 rule says that if a couple were married 10 years and the service member served 10 creditable years that overlapped with the marriage, any court ordered retirement pay could be made directly from Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). This can be greatly beneficial to the non-service member spouse, as they do not have to rely on the retired service member to "remember" to send their share of the retired pay.

20/20/20 Rule

This rule applies if the service member was married at least 20 years, that they served at least 20 creditable years and that there was a 20 year overlap between the marriage and the service. For the non-service member spouse, if eligible, this benefit is extremely valuable, as it allows them potentially lifetime Tricare health coverage, and commissary and exchange access.

Make sure your Attorney Understands Military Divorce Rules

The division of military pensions and retirement pay is a complex area, and with such a valuable asset at stake in your divorce, you don't want to take chances. For knowledgeable legal assistance with military retirement pay during a divorce, contact the Lowendick Law Office in Gwinnett County.