Military Pension Order Attorneys in Rhode Island
Military pensions are a significant asset of any married couple where one party was a member of the military and that member served for the requisite period of time to earn a military pension. There are specific nuances of the military pensions that should be reviewed and considered in every “military divorce”, as well as rules the military members are required to follow before they find themselves before the family court.
Important aspects of the military pension include the amount awarded, survivor benefits, and Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). An order dividing this asset should also include language to protect the former spouse from actions by the military member to defeat their interest in the pension. Once an award of the pension has been made, it will be necessary to submit a Military Qualifying Court Order and other military forms to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in order to implement the division. Our office is typically hired by other attorneys to prepare these documents for their clients, or consult with them regarding language that should be included in the Settlement contracts to protect both parties. The military will say that such an Order is not required, but that they will reject any such request if certain information is not provided in a certain way.
It is also important to note that there are significant consequences to the survivor benefit in these military cases if the former spouse and the military member neglect to make their “deemed election” to secure the survivor benefit in a timely manner. If the former spouse or military member do not make this “election” within one year of the Final Judgment, the benefit is lost and the former spouse will no longer be entitled to an interest in the pension once the member dies. If you were named as the survivor for purposes of the survivor benefit while you were married, it is not enough for the military member to “leave it alone.” A former spouse should not assume they are still the named beneficiary. The military will make the change on its own if the correct paperwork is not received.
Military Pension Order Myths
One myth often recited by military members or their spouses when we meet them is that a spouse cannot be awarded an interest in a military member’s pension if the parties were not married for ten years. This is not true. The ten year requirement is only applicable to the military pay center paying the former spouse their portion of the pension directly. For this reason, and for social security purposes, if your marriage is nearing the ten year mark, this should be a factor to consider before a Final Judgment is entered, or if you have not filed, whether you should wait.
Another important factor to consider in a military divorce is health insurance. The military is bound by federal law which means that a “former spouse” is only entitled to health insurance through the military if they were married for 20 years while the military member was active for 20 years. The timeframe has to overlap. If the military member was in the reserves, just having served over a twenty year period may not be enough. These issues make the time frame a significant factor in these divorce cases where the parties are nearing the 20 year mark.
If you are an attorney who is not aware of the provisions of military pensions and/or the military Code and you have been retained by a military member, we urge you to seek additional information. You could also hire our office as “co-counsel” to address the military pension as well. If you are a client expecting to go through a military divorce, you’re not sure if your attorney has the knowledge he or she needs to answer your questions, or your attorney is not familiar with these rules, you should call the Military Pension Orders and Retirement Law Attorneys at The Law Offices of Howe and Garside.