Harvard Law School
M.A. Columbia University
B.A. Yale University
Mediator, Judge Pro-Tem
Certified Family Law Specialist
licensed by the State Bar of California
Stan is a member of the
San Diego North County Bar Association .
Licensed to practice in California, Maryland, Washington D.C., & Georgia
Dividing a military pension is like walking through a minefield. From the perspective of both the service member spouse and the non-service member spouse, unexpected and unwanted results are an ever present risk. Why should it be so hard? One reason is that military pensions are the creation of federal law, but federal law does not tell you how to divide them in the event of a divorce. Another reason is the complexity of the federal statutory scheme.
Until 2014, for example, a dollar for dollar trade off existed between retired pay and disability pay. A service member could agree to a division of retired pay in his or her divorce, but later decide to trade retired pay for VA disability pay. VA disability pay is not subject to division in a divorce, so suddenly the former spouse could be surprised by a dramatic reduction in her or his payments from DFAS. Congress fixed this in 2005 by allowing concurrent receipt of disability pay and retired pay (" CDRP "), so that the former spouse's benefits are not reduced by a disability pay election after divorce.
But not so fast. The law only applies to certain classes of retirees. The general rule is that the service member retiree must have at least 20 years of creditable service and a VA disability rating of at least 50%. If the service member retiree doesn't meet these criteria, this seemingly past minefield is still there, and pre-CDRP protective strategies used by the non-service member spouse during divorce will still be in play.
And there's more. Congress has also provided Combat-Related Special Compensation (" CRSC ") for service members with at least a 10% disability directly related to the award of a Purple Heart, or to combat, operations, or hazardous duty. By statute it is not retired pay, and it is not divisible as property. Neither is it compatible with CDRP, which stops upon receipt of CRSC, although any past-paid CDRP has to be given back.
This means that an eligible service member retiree can once again forestall what would otherwise be an award to an ex-spouse of a share of military compensation earned during marriage. The state courts are split on whether pre-CDRP protective strategies for dealing with a disability pay election will be effective in dealing with CDRP.
We serve the following San Diego County and Southern California Desert Areas: San Diego, Carlsbad, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, La Jolla, La Mesa, Escondido, Vista, Oceanside, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Marine Corps Base - Camp Pendleton, Poway, Ramona, Julian, Alpine, Temecula, Borrego Springs, Palm Springs, Indio, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Desert Hot Springs, La Quinta, Coachella, Cathedral City.