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Supreme Court rules on military divorce retirement matters

Making the decision to end a marriage is a big step and one that no Colorado resident takes lightly. Among the more pressing concerns that arise in a military divorce is the division of retirement benefits. In a case that recently went before the United States Supreme Court, the matter of how those benefits can and cannot be divided became a central focus. The result could lead to additional cases being reopened across the nation.

The case centered on a man who retired from the Air Force and his wife of 13 years. When the couple divorced, their agreement stated that the wife would receive a 50 percent share of the man's retirement benefits. He retired a year after their divorce was made final, and the payments began as scheduled.

The man filed for disability 14 years later and was granted a VA disability rating. That led to a monthly disability payment of $262, along with an accompanying reduction of retirement pay in the same amount. That meant that his former wife also received a reduction in her monthly payment at the amount of $131. That change is what led the matter to court, where the wife sought compensation from her former husband for the reduced monthly payment.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the husband, with an outcome under which a reduction in retirement pay that results from a disability claim will reduce the amount paid to a former spouse under a divorce agreement. The husband will not be required to make up for those lost payments. From the perspective of military spouses who are concerned about losing a portion of their future retirement benefits, it is important to craft a carefully considered military divorce agreement, whether in Colorado or any other state.

Source:, "Court decision could change military divorce settlements", Tom Philpott, June 2, 2017

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