When a person in the military goes through a divorce, the spouse has the right to claim up to half of that person’s military pension as marital property. This means years later, when the person retires, a large chunk of their retirement amount may be gone, giving them less to live on. If a military person is married and goes through a military divorce more than once, they may be forced to hand over a portion of that money to each ex-spouse.

This rule, which was established in 1982 through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, seems unfair to military members and they want Congress to change it. Prior to that act, soon-to-be ex-spouses of military members could not put any legal claim on the pension. At the time, it was argued that these spouses — who were mostly women — were not able to provide for themselves due to a lack of education and work experience.

The groups that want the military divorce law to be changed argue that they are the only federal employees who are subjected to this rule. Furthermore, they say that many states do not allow lifetime alimony to ex-spouses and that in many cases, pensions and retirements cannot be used as divorce assets. On the other side, those who support the law argue that the spouses are entitled to some form of compensation for the unique struggles associated with military life.

Military members may want to meet with an attorney to draw up legal agreements between them and their spouses that will act as a guide if they later divorce.

Source: Newsmax, “Military Divorcees Aim to End Lifetime Alimony Rules,” David Yonkman, Feb. 18, 2013