Military Divorce: Documents that Need to be Reviewed for Military Retirement Benefits

Indiana is a “one pot” state, in which all assets owned by the parties at the time of divorce are considered marital assets that will be divided in some fashion between the parties, either by the Court or by agreement. Retirement benefits are often an important component of a marital property division or settlement agreement. When one of the divorcing parties is or was a member of the military, it is important to identify, locate, and review the relevant documents early in the process in order to analyze the value of the retirement benefits and how they could fit into the overall property distribution. The list of relevant documents will depend on the servicemember’s status at the time of divorce.

Active-Duty and Reserve Service

When the servicemember is currently on active duty, the two relevant documents to analyze are:

  1. Thrift Savings Plan Statements; and
  2. Leave and Earnings Statements.

If the servicemember is currently a member of one of the reserve components, the servicemember will have an annual form called the Retirement Points Annual Statement.

Active-Duty Retirement

If a servicemember has already retired from active duty from the armed forces at the time of divorce, the following nine documents should be analyzed:

  1. Letter from Defense Finance and Accounting Service;
  2. Retiree Account Statement;
  3. Retirement Orders;
  4. Veteran Affairs Disability Rating Decision Letters;
  5. Member Service Record (DD Form 214 or NGB 22);
  6. Survivor Benefit Plan Election Statement for Former Spouse Coverage (DD Form 2656-1);
  7. Data of Payment for Retired Personnel (DD Form 2656);
  8. Forms 1099-R; and
  9. Thrift Savings Plan Statements.

Guard or Reserve Retirement

If a servicemember served in the National Guard or the Reserves, the following seven documents should be analyzed:

  1. Retirement Point Statements;
  2. Notice of Eligibility (“20-Year Letter”);
  3. Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan Election Certificate (DD Form 2656-5);
  4. Application for Retirement;
  5. Retirement Orders;
  6. Veteran Affairs Disability Rating Decision Letters; and
  7. Thrift Savings Plan Statements.

Military Disability Retirement

The information for active-duty retirement (see above) also applies to a servicemember who is given a disability retirement. A servicemember who is given a disability rating of 30% or above will receive disability retirement and military disability retirement pay. The following three documents should be analyzed in these situations:

  1. Temporary Disability Retirement List Orders;
  2. Physical Evaluation Board Report; and
  3. Permanent Disability Retired List Orders.

Obtaining, early in the process, the relevant retirement benefits documents can go a long way to formulating an overall position on the distribution of material assets. For questions regarding military retirement benefits during a divorce, please contact a member of Barrett McNagny’s Family and Domestic Law group. 

About the Author:

Sadie L. Dillon-Baatz Concentrates her practice in the area of domestic and family law. She assists clients with dissolutions, adoptions, custody disputes, child support issues, and handles adoptions including private, agency and foster adoptions. She can be reached at (260) 423-8914 or at sld@barrettlaw.com

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