09 June 2023

Does my spouse get half my military pension?

Julie Bailey Partner & Head of Military
Woman removing wedding ring

No one expects a relationship break down and any separation can be difficult but for military personnel, a divorce can be particularly difficult to navigate.

A military or armed forces divorce follows the same procedure as a civilian divorce. However, there are some crucial considerations when it comes to sharing an armed forces pension as part of the divorce process.

What are the types of armed forces pensions?

Armed forces pensions are considered to be one of the most generous pension schemes in the UK.

There are three different types of Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS):

  • AFPS 75

  • AFPS 05

  • AFPS 15

Each scheme has its own provisions and benefits which affect who is eligible to receive it, when they receive it, and what it is worth. It is possible to be a member of more than one of the schemes depending on when your military career commenced.

Unlike most other pension schemes, you do not have to make contributions to an armed forces pension. Instead, the pension you receive is dependent on your length of service, the age at which you joined the military, and your rank when you leave. Armed forces pensions also include additional benefits that are not typically included in civilian schemes.

Are divorced spouses entitled to military pension benefits?

An armed forces pension is often the asset with the greatest value in a military divorce. Whether a spouse is entitled to military pension benefits on divorce depends on a wide variety of factors and the circumstances of the particular case will impact on how the pension will be divided.

The length of the marriage is one of the factors the court will give consideration to. Since 2019, however, guidance on the treatment of pensions on divorce suggests that the needs of parties can take precedence over ring fencing assets acquired before the marriage or pre-marriage cohabitation. That guidance has since been supported by the courts.

How are armed forces pension benefits divided on divorce?

There are three methods of dividing military pension benefits:

A pension attachment order

This is now the least used method of dividing a military pension. An attachment order will only entitle the non-serving partner to a share of the monthly pension and/or terminal grant payable to the serving member, at the point that the pension is drawn by the veteran. That entitlement will only continue whilst the pension is in payment to the veteran, meaning it will cease on their death.

A pension sharing order

A pension sharing order transfers a percentage of the serving member’s pension to the non-serving spouse, making them a member of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme and giving them their own pension. However, the terms which apply to that pension are different, in particular in relation to the age at which the pension can be taken.

Military pension offsetting

The spouse serving in the military may want to retain their entire armed forces pension. If so, they may decide to transfer a greater share of other available assets of the marriage (such as the marital home, savings, and investments) in return for keeping the whole of their military pension.

Military divorce lawyers

Armed forces pensions and divorce are complex and we always recommend seeking the advice of a solicitor who specialises in cases involving a military pension.

Our specialist family law solicitors are all experienced in advising armed forces personnel with regard to their entitlements and not only understand all of the Armed Forces Pension Schemes but also the challenges that military personnel face in relation to pension division on divorce.

Julie Bailey, Wilkin Chapman LLP
Need help?

Contact Julie to discuss this further.

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