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Divorce and the service: Military retirement pay as an asset

Divorce blogs and law publications rarely touch on the subtleties in legal precedent that arise when one of the parties filing for the dissolution of marriage is in the military. A recent article from the New Hampshire Bar Association, however, fleshes out some important aspects for both lawyers and individuals to consider in these circumstances. Among them is the division of military retirement pay in divorce proceedings.

A service member is eligible for military retirement pay upon completion of 20 years in his organization. It should be noted that the time need not be accrued sequentially, but is an aggregate of the overall total.

In most states, including New Hampshire, these retirement benefits are considered divisible property in a couple's divorce. In Blanchard v. Blanchard, the case which set the precedent for distributing the funds between couples, the court found that due to a recently adopted federal law, the consideration of assets in these circumstances "is unambiguous and plainly includes military retired pay."

Using the Hodgkins v. Hodgkins decision rendered five years before, according to the source, the judge in the Blanchard case suggested that military retirement pay could be treated as a pension.

"In such cases," the judge wrote, "where it is nevertheless clear that the pension in question has some significant value, the problem of valuation may be avoided, and the risk of uncertainly evenly placed upon the parties, by a decree providing 'that upon maturity of the pension rights the recipient pay a portion of each payment received to his or her former spouse.'"

If you or your spouse is a service member and you are considering filing for divorce, an experienced New Hampshire divorce lawyer can help you obtain necessary documents and help ease the process of dividing your assets as much as possible.

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