Members of the military may have a pension plan and a defined contribution plan (eg Thrift Savings Plan) which can be divided pursuant to divorce.
Some important points to be aware of when dividing the pension plans:
- A Military Qualifying Court Order (MQCO) will only be honored by the Defense Finance and Accounting Office (DFAS) if the parties were married for 10 years or more during which the service member earned at least 10 years of creditable service.
- If the parties agree to Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) they must complete the required forms within one year of the date of divorce.
- If the parties do not agree to Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), then if the Service Member dies before the Former Spouse, then payments to the Former Spouse terminate.
- If the parties do agree to SBP but the Former Spouse re-married before age 55, then the SBP coverage stops. However, if the Former Spouse’s remarriage ends then SPB coverage can resume. If the Former Spouse remarried after age 55, this will not affect SPB coverage.
- For divorces finalized prior to December 23, 2016, the option is available to divide the benefit using the date of retirement coverture formula. For divorces after that date, we have to use the frozen coverture approach which uses the date of divorce and the pay at the time of divorce as determinate of how the benefit is to be divided.
- We are no longer permitted to allow the division of disability benefits if the service member waives retirement pay to receive service-related disability benefits. (US Supreme Court, Howell v Howell). Parties and attorneys should take this into account in their separation agreements.
A separate court order is needed to divide Thrift Savings Accounts.
Mailing addresses for paperwork related to the dividing military pension plans:
For Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps:
Defense Finance and Accounting Service
P.O. Box 998002 Cleveland, OH 44199-8002
For Coast Guard and NOAA:
Commanding Officer (LGL)
United States Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center
444 S.E. Quincy Street
Topeka, KS 66683-3591
For Thrift Savings Plan:
TSP Legal Processing Unit
CODIS—P.O. Box 4390
Fairfax, VA 22038-4390