If you are a military veteran and are considering divorce, you may be wondering what that next move will mean for your hard-earned benefits. While there is no cut-and-dry formula to get the answer ahead of time, below we break down some of the rules you will face.
First, the state you live in has a lot to do with how you and your spouse will divide your assets and debts. For example, Pennsylvania couples follow equitable distribution rules, which aim to achieve a fair (but not necessarily equal) distribution of property. Other states, like California, are community property states. Divorcing couples in those states divide their assets down the middle. So, depending on where you live will dictate how the court will require you to divide all your property.
All states do recognize certain assets as separate property, which are assets that stay with the spouse who owns them. For veterans, that includes certain military-related benefits.
What Divorce Means for Your VA Benefits
Certain service-related benefits will be marital property in a military divorce. Others are separate property. Here are two examples.
Disability benefits. Under the federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, veterans’ disability benefits are not considered marital property. In other words, those benefits cannot be divided as part of a divorce. However, VA disability benefits do count as income when calculating child support and alimony.
Retirement benefits. Unlike disability benefits, the treatment of veterans’ retirement pay during divorce is governed at the state level. In all 50 states, retirement pay is considered marital property and is therefore subject to division when a veteran gets divorced.
It’s important to also note that the court can garnish a veterans’ benefits under certain circumstances. While they cannot be taken away to cover things like unpaid taxes, VA benefits can sometimes be garnished to resolve unpaid alimony or child support benefits.
Your Spouse’s Privileges to Your Military Benefits
When determining whether your soon-to-be ex will continue to receive military benefits and retirement pay as a dependent, use the 20/20/20 rule. He or she can receive full benefits if:
- You were married for at least 20 years,
- The marriage and your military service overlap by at least 20 years, and
- You performed at least 20 years of service that entitle you to retirement benefits.
If the 20/20/20 rule is not met, your spouse may have limited or no privileges to your benefits.
There is more to talk about if you are considering divorce. We welcome you to call (866) 567-1004 to discuss the best way to move forward and protect your rights.