Is it true that if you haven’t been married 10 years you don’t get any of his military retirement?

For some reason, a lot of women think that, unless they’ve been married to their husband for ten years or more, they don’t have a right to share in the military retirement. That is absolutely not true. For every military marriage, for any duration, the wife earns a portion of the retirement. That portion may be very, very small if the marriage was of a short duration and the husband’s time in the service was particularly long, but you begin earning a share in the military pension from the day you say “I do” until the day you separate.

Yesterday, I blogged about military retirement and how different states handle division differently. For our purposes, the important information is the formula for calculating marital share in Virginia. Here it is:

Number of years employed during the marriage

________________________________________ x 50% = marital share

Total number of years employed

As you can tell, you will receive a certain marital share no matter how short your marriage, though of course your marital share could be very small. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been married, you have a property right in receiving your share of the military retirement. In shorter-term marriages, we do often see parties waiving their interest in each other’s retirements, but if your marriage is more than a couple of years, it’s probably worth preserving your interest in it.

The reason that this 10 year myth has emerged is because of how military retirement is actually paid out to the former spouse. In a marriage that lasted less than 10 years, you will have to receive your share of the military retirement by a voluntary military allotment. Basically, your husband will be responsible for making sure you get paid. He can elect to pay you by allotment, which would specifically set aside the money for you each month to be taken out of his paycheck, or he can write a check to you directly. This can be inconvenient, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have an interest in his retirement.

The alternative, if you’ve been married for over ten years, is to receive your share of the military retirement directly from DFAS. This is often preferable, because you can be sure that you’ll receive your check at a specific time every month.

Be sure that you know what your rights and entitlements are before you sign anything taking them away. Husbands are often eager to try to promote myths like these, especially when they make women think that they should receive less. By the time you’ve signed, it’s too late to turn back.

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