If you are getting a divorce in Maryland and you or your spouse are in the military, you probably know that there will several different issues to deal with that would not come up if you were both civilians. One of those issues is what happens to the military pension after you divorce.
Even establishing that Maryland is the state that has jurisdiction can be complicated. The residence or domicile of the military member must be in Maryland, or the military member has to consent to the jurisdiction. While every state recognizes the pension as marital property, it can only be paid out directly to an ex-spouse if the marriage has lasted at least 10 years and the overlapping period of military service has been at least 10 years. However, there is a myth that for shorter marriages, the non-military spouse cannot get any of the pension. This is untrue. A court may decide to award a portion of the pension to the ex-spouse even when the marriage has been shorter. The difference is that the payment is not made directly by the Department of Defense.
A non-military ex-spouse cannot get direct payments of more than half the pension or 65% if the military member is obligated to pay alimony or child support. Depending on the length of the marriage, the ex-spouse may be eligible for other benefits as well, such as medical benefits. Other property division may proceed based on state law.
Military service can complicate a divorce in a number of other ways as well. For example, if there are children and one parent is deployed frequently, this can affect the agreement for child custody and visitation. People considering a divorce when one or both spouses are in the military may want to consult an attorney who has this type of experience.