How does retirement for the spouse of a military servicemember work?

Retirement that is earned during any marriage is considered a marital asset unless the parties have a prenuptial agreement that addresses it. In Florida, we use a coverture fraction to determine what portion of the member’s retirement can be allocated to the spouse. You first start with the number of months the parties were married during the service time. That number is divided by the total number of months of service the military member has accrued. If the member hasn’t retired by the time of the divorce, then that number is determined when the member retires. There will be a percentage once you do the division. That percentage is the overall percentage of service during the marriage. That number is then divided by 2. The resulting percentage is then multiplied by the monthly retirement award. Keep in mind that many servicemembers will receive a disability rating that converts their retirement to disability. That disability is not considered an asset and cannot be awarded to the spouse; however, it can be considered a source to pull alimony, child support or attorneys fees.

For example, a couple is married for 10 years (120 months) of the members’ service. The member serves 20 years (240 months). You divide the 120 by 240 and get 50%. You divide that by 2. The spouse would receive 25% of the member’s monthly retirement. The only way to secure that retirement is if the member designates the spouse as the Survivor Benefit. The parties pay the amount from the gross pay before the retirement is divided and that ensures the spouse continues to receive that portion even if the member dies first. The amount is currently at $234 per month. Some people think that is expensive since it is to ensure the retirement. Some choose not to do that and simply get a life insurance policy.

If the parties are not married for ten years, DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Services), will not create a separate account for the spouse and send the retirement directly to them. The spouse would have to get it from the member.