How to Divide Military Retirement in Utah Divorce

How to Divide Military Retirement in Utah Divorce

Typically, any retirement money generated during a marriage will be divided equally between spouses. There is a specific formula for this called the Woodward formula, which protects spouses from having to give up retirement money they accumulated prior to marriage. Military retirement pay is divided much the same way. When dividing military retirement, we’re specifically looking at the FERS (Federal Employment Retirement Systems), which includes a TSP (Thrift Savings Plan) and the Basic Benefit Plan (basically a pension).  

Do I Need a Separate Court Order Dividing Military Retirement?

Yes, you do need a separate order dividing military retirement. This specific type of order divides a military serviceperson’s Federal Employment Retirement Systems (FERS) plan. For servicepersons who were or are on active duty, you will need a separate court order called a “Military Retired Pay Division Order.” In that court order, spouses can state how the military retired pay should be divided; typically, this is by percentage (i.e., 50% to one spouse and 50% to the other) or by dollar amount (i.e., $1,000 per month).  

The active-duty military service personnel will also have a TSP. A TSP is technically part of the FERS, but it must be dealt with separately. A TSP can be divided into a Decree of Divorce (the final document signed by your judge at the end of your divorce), or your attorney may draft an entirely separate order focused specifically on the TSP itself.  

If one spouse was or is in Reserves, you will need an “Order Dividing Military Reserve Retirement Pay.” 

What is a Spouse’s Share of Military Retirement?

How much money a military serviceperson will receive each month after retirement will vary depending on how much they made during their service. That amount will typically be calculated based on their “high-3,” or the average of their highest three years of income.  

As stated above, the court will typically award a spouse 50% of any retirement money generated during the marriage.  

Here are a few examples of how this might work:

  1. The husband started his military career after marriage and retired before the divorce.  The wife would typically be entitled to 50% of the Husband’s military retirement.  
  2. Wife served in the military for ten years before marriage.  Wife served for another ten years after marriage for a total of 20 years and then retired before the divorce.  Husband may be entitled to 25% of the Wife’s military retirement.  This is calculated by taking the number of years the Wife was in military service during the marriage (10 years) and dividing it in half (= 5); 5 / 20 total years in service = 25%.  
  3. Husband and Wife independently negotiate and agree on what would be fair.  Husband and Wife decide that the Wife should be entitled to $1,000 of the Husband’s military retired pay each month. Parties are free to come to any agreement they feel is fair regarding the division of military retirement.  

Are There Any Other Specific Forms I Need to Divide Military Retirement? 

Yes. If you are the spouse of someone serving in the military, you will need to fill out several forms.  You will need to complete an “Application for Former Spouse Payments from Retired Pay.” You will also need to complete a “Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Reserve Component (RC)” form. This is an application for survivor benefits. Where you send these forms will depend on whether the spouse served in the Air Force, Coastguard, Public Health Service, or National Administration. Completing these forms soon after divorce is important because delay can result in being ineligible for certain benefits.  

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