People who serve in the military are subject to more regulations and rules than other American adults. In addition to complying with state and federal laws, they must also comply with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The military has its own rules that affect everything from the behavior of people while actively serving in the military to their benefits rights after they retire.

If you or your spouse served in the military during your marriage and acquired a military pension as a result, you may wonder if there will be a different approach to the division of a military pension versus a pension offered to a civilian through their employer.

Most people have at least heard of the 10-year pension rule, but they may not understand what it involves. Many people aren’t certain of how dividing a pension is different when there’s a military career involved.

People can still share their military pension after a shorter marriage

The fact that there’s a rule about pensions and military marriages that last at least a decade has become common knowledge, but quite a few people mistakenly believing that only marriages that last a decade or longer will result in a non-military spouse having a claim to some of their partner’s military pension.

The rule regarding military pensions does not require a 10-year marriage in order for the military to permit the division of a pension. What this rule states is that once a marriage with a military servicemember lasts a decade, the Department of Defense can directly distribute a divorced spouse’s share of the pension into their personal account. A military spouse can receive a portion of the military benefits without special orders or involvement by the civilian courts after 10 years of marriage.

Can civilian courts divide a military pension?

Although the military will handle the disbursement of pension benefits for a spouse who stayed married to a servicemember for at least a decade, spouses married for less time can still have a claim to a share of pension benefits. However, the military will not directly distribute those benefits.

That means that it falls on the civilian courts managing the divorce to order the division of the pension funds. They may do this by creating a spousal support order or by issuing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order that will divide the accrued benefits into separate accounts. There are other ways to handle a military pension, so learning more about your options before you file for divorce can help you make the most appropriate choice for your situation.