When does the 10/10 rule matter in military divorces?

| Jul 19, 2021 | Military Family Law |

Certain things are different in military divorces than in civilian divorces. For example, adultery could be a big deal for a military service member, while it would be a non-issue in the civilian courts in most cases.

Military service can complicate custody arrangements and property division or spousal support because marital status has a direct impact on what a service member earns. There will also often be confusion or conflict about benefits.

Those who aspire to a military career will eventually qualify for military retirement benefits. Their spouses will likely have made major sacrifices to keep their family stable during military service and will probably expect a share of the military retirement if they divorce. When might the 10/10 rule affect your rights to military retirement benefits in a divorce?

The 10/10 rule affects the distribution, not the division of property

There’s a persistent myth about the 10/10 rule that leads people to think it determines whether or not a military spouse can ask for a share of their ex’s retirement benefits. However, the 10/10 rule doesn’t have anything to do with the division of marital property.

Either the family courts or the couple divorcing have the authority to make a decision about dividing the property. If the couple has a marital agreement or negotiates a settlement, they decide how to split the pension. If they litigate the divorce because they can’t reach a settlement, the judge will divide their assets, including the military pension, in accordance with state laws.

The 10/10 rule does not determine when or how spouses split a military retirement in the divorce. Instead, it determines who pays the non-military spouse their share of the benefits.

What the 10/10 rule actually does

The 10/10 rule allows the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to directly distribute retirement benefits to a spouse after a divorce. To qualify for this direct disbursement, the marriage must meet a very specific standard.

The active-duty spouse must have had at least 10 years of service during the marriage for their spouse to qualify for direct payments. Otherwise, spouses will have to make their own arrangements for the distribution of pension benefits as part of their divorce.

Learning more about what makes military divorces unique can help you better plan for your upcoming divorce.