Military Divorce

Pending Federal legislation could have a huge impact on how judges will divide military pensions during a divorce. In a previous post, I discussed at length how military pension plans currently could be divided in the context of a Massachusetts divorce matter. Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judges generally have the discretion to either divide a pension as an asset or to divide the income resulting from the plan “if, as, and when” it entered pay status.

If the parties agree to (or if the Family Court Judge elects) the “if, as and when” approach, the service member’s pension pay would be divided between the service member and the former spouse based on the rank and years of service of the service member at the time of retirement. However, the pending federal legislation proposed by Representative Steve Russell would instead direct state judges to divide military pensions based on the rank and years of service at the time of the divorce. The enactment of such a bill would hugely influence the retirement pension payments of both retired service members and their former spouses.… Keep reading

My first exposure to military divorce came not as an attorney, but rather as a child raised on a military base for most of my formative years. Any “Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine/Coast Guard Brat” can attest that there are a number of stressors associated with “base life.” Divorce was commonplace, though never easy.

Base life comes with benefits beyond unity of purpose, a sense of community and pride. There are also some surprising financial perks as well. Reduced cost housing is a well known benefit of living on a military reservation, but base life also has reduced-cost health insurance, entertainment and shopping. Military reservations are free from most state taxation, which can result in substantial savings to military families. Interestingly, one of the more hot button topics in a military divorce is whether the divorcing spouse of a service member is able to access the perks of base life.… Keep reading

Hi there,

My talented Burns & Levinson colleague, Ron Barriere, has worked on several military divorce cases.  In this week’s post, Ron explains important considerations regarding pensions and retirement accounts for military spouses facing divorce. 




This past summer, while most Massachusetts divorce lawyers (myself included) were busily studying the new Alimony Reform Act, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued an important decision concerning the treatment of military pensions in Massachusetts divorce cases.  Casey v. Casey considered whether a military defined benefit plan could be properly included in the income of the former service member-spouse for purposes of calculating support or whether the pension itself was an asset subject to division.

By way of background, military retirement vehicles – like their civilian counterparts – commonly come in one of two varieties:

1) Defined Contribution Plans.  These plans are characterized by fixed contributions paid by employers and/or employees, and contributions are then invested.  Any returns on the investments are credited to the employee’s account. Common civilian defined contribution plans include Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) plans, but the most common military defined contribution plan is the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP.  The TSP – … Keep reading

One of my very articulate colleagues, Ron Barriere, has done a lot of work with military divorces and has been drafted during my involvement in a very difficult trial to provide a post detailing them.


The concurrent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to the combat deployment of millions of American men and women. The bravery and sacrifice of our troops is self-evident and is justifiably celebrated. However, an unfortunate byproduct of their service is the strain on their home life, and a corresponding increase in family law litigation involving service members. In the past decade, the number of service members involved in divorce actions increased steadily before leveling in 2010.  These statistics reflect only a fraction of a much larger problem: they do not include the vast number of modification and contempt actions involving previously divorced service members relating to support, visitation, and child custody.… Keep reading

Hi there,

Almost everyone would love to know before marrying, whether or not they will end up divorced, if only to avoid the need for a prenup.  Anneli Ruffus has written a very interesting compilation of research pieces for The Daily Beast on “15 Ways to Predict Divorce.”

I have always believed that parents of children with disabilities have a much higher divorce rate and now there seems to be research that indicates that parents of twins are also at risk.

In addition to all the other life altering issues they face, military families have a much higher risk of divorce as well.

And finally, here is a tacky piece on the Getty divorce. The reason all of the personal financial and spending material was in the court record available for the writer to find, was that Mrs. Getty apparently was trying to set out not only his bad behavior but their lifestyle, in order to obtain the support she wanted.


Nancy… Keep reading