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Hidden Money in Massachusetts Military Divorce Cases

Everyone knows that a divorce typically involves dividing your marital assets.  In a military divorce those assets frequently include the service member's military benefits, such as the right to military retirement pay and healthcare for the children.

One asset that is often overlooked is the value of the service member's leave days accrued during the marriage.

Each person in the military service on active duty accrues 30 days of paid leave each year, regardless of rank.  This leave is worth what its equivalent would be at the monthly pay rate of the servicemember, and one can calculate this easily by using the pay tables at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) website, www.dfas.mil.

Thus, if Col Smith's gross pay is $6,600 per month and he has forty five days of accrued leave at the point of evaluation according to state law (i.e. date of filing), his accrued leave would be worth about $9,900 (45/30 x $6,600), which represents gross pay before tax and other withholdings. Counsel for Mrs. Smith should advocate use of the gross pay figure, whereas opposing counsel should use after tax computations for the pay and eliminate any non-pay entitlements.

Counsel for the servicemember sometimes will attempt to confuse the issue by pointing out that the nonmilitary spouse cannot be awarded military leave.  This argument misses the point.  The issue is not who can use military leave but whether, under applicable state law, assets such as "vacation time" and "sick leave" are marital property if it is acquired during the marriage.

Because military divorce requires special knowledge of laws that do not apply to civilian divorce, it may be wise to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer who handles military divorce cases.

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