Too many times a soldier would walk into my office and inform me “my spouse can’t get any of my retirement, we haven’t been married 10 years”. This fallacy still exists today and nothing could be further from the truth. There are numerous ways to explain but to focus on clarity I will hone this down to the obvious. After ten years of service and ten years of marriage which overlap the Department of Defense will collect the retirement for the divorced spouse. The spouse has to make the proper applications for retired pay in a timely manner and while many practitioners rely solely on a divorce decree I recommend a separate order requiring direct payments to the spouse. This avoids confusion on the anniversary date of retirement when the decree and client’s perception of events do not coincide.
Should the spouse not qualify for enforcement of the retirement division by the government due to not being married to the servicemember for ten years then that spouse will have to resort to collecting amounts due pursuant to the divorce in the same fashion as any debt. In this regard the decree should state that the servicemember is ultimately responsible for any payment not made by the government beginning on the date of retirement. In many occasions the servicemember does not make timely application for retirement pay or the government does not process the retirement in a timely fashion.
There are many more nuances to a military retirement including the Survivor Benefit Plan, Death and Indemnity Compensation, disability payment offsets, and numerous other events that can and most likely will reduce your military retirement unless you protect yourself against these occurrences. I highly recommend hiring an attorney who has experience in these matters to protect yourself against drastic reductions in the military retirement benefit that you did not expect at the time of the divorce.