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The Pitfalls of Military Pensions: Congressional Override and the Supreme Court Decision in Howell


Dealing with military pension division cases has just turned into "life in the fast lane." Or - if you make a mistake - "life in the oncoming lane." Three major changes have taken place within a one-year period. In December 2016, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act was amended to change what retired pay can be divided at the retired pay center; it's now a "Frozen Benefit" as of the divorce date, not the full pension. On May 15, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that a judge may not order indemnification when the retiree's election of VA disability compensation cuts the pension share of the former spouse. And on January 1, 2018, the new Blended Retirement System will provide three additional changes to compensation and retired pay which will have an impact on the family law practitioner with a divorce case involving a spouse or a still-serving military member with less than 12 years of creditable service.


Mark E. Sullivan practices in Raleigh, North Carolina. A retired Army Reserve JAG colonel and a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, Mr. Sullivan is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the author of The Military Divorce Handbook, (ABA, 2nd Ed. 2011). He was co-founder of the military committee of the North Carolina State Bar in 1981, and he has been a member of the committee or its director ever since. He is a past chair of the Military Committee of the ABA Family Law Section, and he served on the ABA Working Group for the Protection of the Rights of Servicemembers in 2002-2003. He assists fellow attorneys from across the country in drafting military pension division orders, and consulting on military divorce issues.



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