Half His Retirement Belongs To Me

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband was married for six years prior to our marriage. When they divorced, he agreed to give her 50 percent of his retirement from the National Guard.

I have been married to him for 17 years, and we are now getting ready to go through a divorce for his marital misconduct. He has begged me not to request 50 percent of his retirement since that would not leave him with anything.

At first, I was going to just to get it over with, but everyone is telling me that I'm crazy for letting him get away with the hell he put me through. He had multiple affairs, fathered a child with another woman during our marriage, and committed financial misconduct that led to his conviction for a felony.

I understand that he has to request retirement. How can I force him to request retirement so his ex and I don't get screwed out of what we both deserve? How would the amounts be figured out as to what she is entitled to, what I am entitled to and what he is entitled to?

Please help! I loved him through everything he did, I gave him chance after chance and he just kept having affairs. We went through years of therapy, and he swore that the affairs were just sex and that he truly loved me.

One thing I have learned: Once a cheater, always a cheater. I want to move on with my life and until this is resolved I can't.

Sincerely,
Desperate In Florida

Dear Florida,

I’m very sorry to hear about your pending divorce. It sounds like you tried really hard to make your marriage work.

I’ll get right to the point: I don’t think there is a definite way to say who gets what in a divorce settlement. For this reason, you need to get legal advice. I don’t think you should sign a divorce settlement without legal representation.

I regularly speak to spouses who have divorced a servicemember, and each divorce is different. I hear from spouses who don’t get any of the servicemember’s retirement after being married to him for 20-plus years of their military service. Instead, they may get the house and portions of other assets.

I know this is difficult for you and it’s not fair what you are experiencing, but divorce and the military is not a cookie-cutter formula. For example, take a look at the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Overview (USFSPA). The law does not automatically give a former spouse any of the member's retired pay. Rather, the law permits a state to treat military disposable retired pay as marital property and therefore divide it in a divorce action.

Disposable military retired pay is a servicemember's monthly retired pay minus qualified deductions. USFSPA allows the local court to treat military retired pay just as it would treat a civilian pension plan. Retired pay may be divided for property settlement purposes.

Also, there is a difference between active duty and reserve when it comes to retirement and divorce settlements when it comes to a spouse getting a portion of their pension. Here are some quick recommendations:

** Visit your local legal office on base or on post. You should be able to find the office number online. Most legal offices on base have days dedicated for a walk-ins.

** Read Divorce and the Military II (A Comprehensive Guide for Service Members, Spouses and Attorneys) by Marsha L. Thole. This book is a newly published comprehensive guide for military members (active duty, reserve/guard and retired), spouses and their attorneys. It is a great resource that can be purchased on Amazon.

** Visit the Airman and Family Readiness Center (AFRC) and ask to speak to a Military and Family Life Consultant (MFLC). They are trained clinicians that you can speak with off the record. They don’t keep notes or records, and you can meet with them on base or off base at a coffee shop. The MFLCs are very supportive and will provide brief solution focused strategies to help you.

I wish I could be more helpful. If you find out any information that you think could be helpful to me or other readers, feel free to write me again and share. I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, is married to an active-duty Soldier and has three sons. She has a Master's of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and currently works as a therapist with military servicemembers and their families. She provides services for a wide array of concerns such as combat stress, PTSD, couples and marital problems, depression, grief and loss, stress and coping.

Ms. Vicki also writes an advice column "Dear Ms. Vicki" that appears in the Washington Times, the Fort Campbell Courier and the Heidelberg Herald Post. Ms. Vicki also hosts an internet radio show and blogs on her community site with the Washington Times. If you want to ask Ms. Vicki for advice about your military life, please email her at AskMsVicki@military-inc.com.

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