When you’re in a marriage with a military member, there are special rules that can apply to you upon divorce. For example, depending on the length of time you’ve been married, you could be entitled to part of your spouse’s pension or retirement pay.

A case that was reported in the news on May 15 discussed this when the Supreme Court handled a case involving a military divorce. The couple involved divorced in 1991, and they then agreed that the ex-wife would be entitled to half of her ex-husband’s military retirement. He retired in 1992 after 20 years of service.

Both of them began to receive retirement benefits the following year, but several years later, the man began to suffer from degenerative joint disease. As a result, he filed for disability, and the Department of Veteran’s affairs approved his claim in 2005.

He was qualified for disability payments, but as such, he had to waive an equal portion of his retirement pay. The payments to he and his ex-wife were reduced by $127 monthly. She filed a motion to have the court reaffirm the previously agreed upon split of the retirement.

A family court agreed with her, stating that the man’s decision to take disability payments didn’t deprive her of the right to her portion of the retirement income. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court did not agree, stating that any payments reduced as a result of a waiver would be reduced as required.

Cases like this can quickly become complicated, which is why it’s important to work with your attorney. Military and federal laws can change a divorce agreement by proxy, so it’s important to know how changes in your ex’s health or job could affect your payout.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Justices Clarify Benefits in Military Divorce Case,” Kevin Lessmiller, May 15, 2017

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