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Military divorce: changes are in store for ex-military spouse benefits.


The new ruling could seriously affect military couples that choose to divorce.

On May 15, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that could have a significant impact on military spouse’s benefits post-divorce.

As military spouses know, a military retiree can get benefits from disability, retirement, or both. However, in some circumstances, the military requires service members to sacrifice a portion of their retirement in order to get their full monthly VA disability award. Military retirees often choose to sacrifice retirement for disability payments, because disability payments are tax-free.

While this is beneficial for the service member, this is a detriment to an ex-military spouse. This is because retirement is considered marital property, while disability is not. Thus, when military retirees sacrifice their retirement to get the full pay out for disability, the ex-spouse’s share of the retirement also decreases.

military divorce benefits

Previously, courts resolved this issue by requiring military retirees to “make up” the amount their ex-spouse lost. So, for example, if the retiree’s retirement decreased by $300 a month due to reducing the same in place of VA disability, the retiree was required to pay his or ex-spouse (who was entitled to 50% of his retirement) an additional $150 per month to ensure that the ex-spouse’s amount did not decrease.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lower courts could no longer require military retirees to “make up” the amount that their ex-spouses lost as a result of their election to receive their benefits through disability. Now, if military retirees elect to receive the majority of their benefits through disability, resulting in a decrease in benefits to their ex-spouse, the ex-spouse must simply accept the smaller amount.

The Court’s decision is sweeping, and it will heavily affect many military couples if they choose to divorce.  While many military retirees praise the decision, some ex-spouses see it as a huge loss. Thus, it is important to ensure that military spouses have certain protections in their divorce decree to ensure that they are not negatively affected by this decision.  

At Batson Nolan, we know that any divorce is difficult and military divorces only get more complicated. Luckily our trusted team of family law and divorce attorneys have extensive experience with military divorce. If you need help, contact Batson Nolan today. Our family law attorneys understand the sensitive nature of such legal issues, and we are committed to providing both compassionate and aggressive representation that our clients deserve.