How is a Military Pension Divided in South Carolina

by John PaceLast updated Dec 1, 2023Category: Military Divorce

If you or your spouse is in the military and are considering getting divorced in South Carolina, one of the critical issues that may arise is how to divide any military pension benefits. Unlike other retirement plans, such as 401(k)s or IRAs, military pensions can be more complicated to divide because federal laws and regulations govern them. In this blog post, we will discuss the process for dividing a military pension after a South Carolina military divorce.

Understanding Military Pension Benefits

A military pension is a type of retirement income that is provided to service members who have served for at least 20 years. The amount of the pension is based on the years of service, rank at retirement, and average pay during the last three years of service. Military pension benefits are considered marital property in a divorce, which means they can be divided between spouses.

South Carolina's Equitable Distribution Law

South Carolina follows the equitable distribution law when dividing assets in a divorce. This means that instead of automatically splitting all assets 50/50, the court will divide assets in a fair and equitable way for both parties. When it comes to dividing a military pension, this can be a bit more complex due to federal laws.

The 10/10 Rule

Under federal law, a former spouse of a military service member may be eligible for direct payment from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) if the marriage lasted at least ten years and overlapped with at least ten years of military service. This is known as the "10/10 rule." If this criteria is met, the former spouse can receive their portion of the military pension directly from DFAS instead of relying on the other spouse to make payments.

The 20/20/20 Rule

In addition to the 10/10 rule, there is also a "20/20/20" rule that can impact the division of a military pension. Under this rule, if the marriage lasted at least 20 years and overlapped with at least 20 years of military service, the former spouse may receive full medical benefits through TRICARE, the military's healthcare program. This rule can also affect how a military pension is divided in a divorce.

Using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order

If the 10/10 or 20/20/20 rules do not apply to your situation, you may still be able to divide a military pension through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A QDRO is a court order that directs the military to pay a portion of the pension directly to the former spouse. An attorney can help you draft a QDRO that complies with federal laws and meets the requirements set by DFAS.

Seek Professional Legal Advice From a Top Ranked South Carolina Divorce Law Firm 

Dividing a military pension in a divorce can be a complex and often contentious issue. It is essential to seek professional legal advice from an experienced divorce attorney who is knowledgeable about both South Carolina divorce laws and federal military laws. At Fender Law Firm, we have helped numerous clients navigate the complexities of dividing a military pension in a divorce. Contact us today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation. We are here to help you understand your rights and guide you towards a fair and equitable resolution. 

John John

John Pace

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