Do you have to split a military pension over a 2-year marriage?

Serving in the military can be a meaningful and rewarding career, but it can also put a lot of strain on your personal relationships. Military service can mean going months without direct physical interaction with your spouse, which can result in a growing distance between the two of you or even infidelity.

Regardless of what issues led to one of you filing for divorce, you will likely have a host of questions about how a divorce will impact you when you are still pursuing a military career. As you probably already know, ending your marriage will decrease some of the compensation you receive, including your housing.

Your divorce could also impact you in other ways, such as by requiring that you share your military pension with your ex. If you have only stayed married for a few years, you may find yourself wondering if you will have to split your pension.

Washington is a community property state

What many military service members and their spouses don’t understand about divorce is that it is not a process managed by the military courts. Instead, you have to file for divorce in the state where you live. For residents of Washington, the rules that will apply in a divorce include the community property standard.

Community property laws make whatever you earn or acquire during your marriage shared between spouses. Your earned wages and the benefits from your employment, including contributions to a pension, will be part of the marital estate that the courts may wind up dividing.

Is there a 10-year rule that applies to military pensions?

One of the most significant sources of confusion regarding military pension benefits is the well known but frequently misunderstood 10-year rule. Some people mistakenly think that they have to stay married for a decade before their spouse has any legal claim to their military pension.

However, the Department of Defense doesn’t manage divorces on behalf of military members. They do not make decisions regarding the division of assets or any other family law matter. The only influence that the 10-year rule has on divorcing military families is whether the courts will have to require a plan administrator to split an account or whether the Department of Defense will make direct disbursements to the former military spouse.

The better you understand Washington state law and military rules, the more informed your decisions about your pending divorce will be.