Supreme Court weighs in on military divorce property division

For Florida servicemembers, going through a divorce is a challenging time. Determining how to divide marital wealth is one of the most difficult aspects of the process, and the outcome will shape the financial futures of both parties. A recent case that went before the United States Supreme Court has led to clarification on property division issues that affect military families.

The case centered on a man who retired from the Air Force and his former wife. The two had reached an agreement under which the wife was entitled to receive half of her former husband’s retirement pay. Once he retired the following year, both parties began receiving a share of his retirement pay. In 2005, he filed for disability, claiming that he became disabled due to his military service. He was approved, and began receiving monthly disability compensation.

That triggered a reduction in his monthly retirement pay, to match the amount he received in disability. The reduction also applied to his wife, which was the basis of her lawsuit. She asked the court to order her former husband to replace her lost income, in the amount of $131 per month. A ruling at the lower court level allowed those payments. 

Although that ruling compelled the former husband to “make up” for the lost monthly income, the Supreme Court ruled that no such compensation was required. That means that the former servicemember will be able to make use of his monthly retirement and disability income as he sees fit, without having to write a check to his former wife. That outcome may be of interest to Florida spouses who are facing their own property division negotiations.

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

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