As a service member, you have likely spent significant time overseas on deployment and in other stressful situations protecting the safety of our country at home and abroad. You probably feel like you more than earned your pension. You wouldn’t want to do anything to have that taken away from you. If you’re facing a divorce, then your right to your military retirement may be in jeopardy though.
The federal government calls the shots on most things that are military-related. This isn’t the case with a divorce though. Divorce is almost completely a state matter. Here in Ohio, how a pension gets split up between two Hamilton spouses is completely up to the couple to decide. If they’re unable to reach an agreement, then a family law judge will make such a determination for them.
A federal law, known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) gives state judges the right to decide how to best split up pensions among divorcing couples. Judges are supposed to handle the military pension like they would any other piece of property and divide it up as a joint asset.
The USFSPA also gives ex-husbands and wives the right to request regular payouts from the retired service member’s account as ordered by the court. It should be noted that there’s no such thing as retroactive payments though. The ex-spouse can only collect funds that they’ve been awarded in the present and moving forward by enforcing their order.
While the military looks to the state court systems to handle divorces, there are a lot of unique laws on the books that dictate how certain entitlements to pensions and other benefits should be handled. You’ll want to have an attorney who has extensive experience handling similar Ohio handle cases handle yours if you’re trying to broker a fair settlement as you end your marriage.