It is vital to understand the Ten-Year Rule and how it impacts your pension.
One of the most overall misunderstood aspects of military divorce is the Ten-Year Rule. Most service members who visit my office believe that their spouse cannot touch their military pension if the service member has not been in the military for more than ten years. In the state of Florida, this is categorically not true. Say for example, a soldier has 7 years of service during 7 years of marriage. The soldier’s military pension is still subject to equitable distribution even though the soldier does not have 10 years of service yet. The soldier’s spouse can, and will, receive a portion of the soldiers pension based upon those 7 years of service. This, obviously, depends on whether the spouse asserts his/her right to that portion of the pension. But, the “Ten-Year Rule” has nothing to do with how the State of Florida divides your military pension in a divorce proceeding and there is no time limit that prevents a court from dividing the military pension. In theory, if you were in the military for only a period of 30 days, that could still subject your pension to being divided in a divorce case, however the amount the spouse would receive would be minuscule and probably not worth pursuing.
So what is the “Ten-Year Rule” and why is it so misunderstood? If you have at least 10 years of marriage that overlaps 10 years of service that is creditable towards retirement, then your spouse may receive the pension payments directly from DFAS. DFAS stands for Defense Financing and Account Service. That is all the “Ten-Year Rule” states. The rule only pertains to the specific way the payments are to be made. So, if there is less than 10 years of marriage or 10 years of service, or both, then you, as the service member, will have to pay your spouse directly the portion of the pension the spouse is to receive. So, in a nutshell, 10 years of marriage overlapping 10 years of creditable service means that DFAS will garnish the pension payments and pay your spouse. Otherwise, the service member will have to cut a check directly to their spouse every month and pay them their portion of the pension that they are entitled to receive. I have yet to understand why service members misunderstand this rule so frequently.
It is worth noting that dividing a military pension can be very complex and complicated. It requires the expertise of a family law attorney who is very familiar with the procedure to divide a military pension.
If you have concern on whether the Ten-Year Rule applies to your military pension or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law you may always contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected].