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What does the 10/10 rule mean for military pensions in divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2022 | Property Division

A military pension is one of the most valuable benefits someone can drive from their service. Many people pursue a military career in no small part because they hope to retire from the military.

After you spend years serving your country, the last thing you want is to lose a portion of your pension to your spouse. However, sharing your assets and income is part of marriage, which means that dividing your property is inevitably a big part of modern divorce.

If you served in the military for long enough to qualify for a pension, you may have heard that the 10/10 rule will force you to divide your pension in the divorce. Is your retirement at risk when you divorce after a long marriage and military career?

What the 10/10 rule actually says

Many people misunderstand the 10/10 rule. It does not actually determine when a non-military spouse is eligible for a share of someone’s military pension. Instead, the rule simply determines how the process of sharing that pension unfolds.

If the 10/10 rule applies, then the  Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will directly distribute the non-military spouse’s portion of the pension every month directly. The military spouse will not need to take any special steps. If the 10/10 rule does not apply, then the spouse receiving the pension will have to make arrangements to share those payments or make separate monthly payments to their ex.

The actual division of your retirement account depends on Hawaii state law. A judge would aim for the equitable division of your marital property which will typically mean dividing the pension or at least integrating its value into other property division decisions.

When does the 10/10 rule apply?

The 10/10 rule gets its name from the requirements at places on Direct distributions from DFAS. Specifically, the spouse receiving the military pension must have performed at least 10 years of military service and the marriage must have lasted for 10 years.

In a marriage where there were at least 10 years of qualifying military service during the marital relationship, then the dependent spouse can potentially receive whatever share of the pension the courts award them paid directly from DFAS.

When you understand the unique rules that apply to military divorces, it will be easier for you to secure  a fair outcome in your upcoming marital dissolution.


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