Colorado Military Retirement Division in Divorce

In 1988, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that military retirements, like other pension plans, are "property" and therefore subject to division upon divorce. In re: the Marriage of Gallo, 752 P.2d 47 (Colo. 1988).  Military pensions from divorces prior to that decision are not subject to division in Colorado, as the Gallo decision may not be applied retroactively. In re: the Marriage of Booker, 833 P.2d 734 (Colo. 1992)

 

Hunt Formula

Seven years after Gallo, the Court refined the formula for the division of military retirement. In re: the Marriage of Hunt, 909 P.2d 525 (Colo. 1995). The Colorado divorce court will award the spouse one-half of the marital portion of the disposable retired pay.  The martial portion is calculated as follows:

Months of marriage overlapping service
-----------------------------------------------------
Total months of military service at retirement

Example:

  • Assume a couple was married for exactly 12 years (144 months) overlapping creditable military service, and the servicemember retired at 20 years (240 months).
  • The marital portion would be 144 / 240, or 60% of the servicemember's disposable retired pay. The former spouse would therefore receive half of that, or 30%.
  • The servicemember receives the remaining 70%, which consists of the other half of the marital share (30%), plus his separate property interest (40%).

This formula is known as the Hunt formula, but is sometimes referred to as the Hunt/Gallo formula, or the coverture formula.

Reserve component retired pay is treated in a similar fashion, except that the formula is based upon points, rather than months.

 

Awarding Under 50% of Marital Share

In the companion case to Hunt, a servicemember argued that his wife should receive less than half of the marital share of the military retirement since she only provided "lukewarm" support to his career. The Colorado Supreme Court rejected that position on the division of military retirement, and awarded the spouse a full 50% of the marital share, on the grounds that the division of military retirement in Colorado must be made without regard to fault.

So how can a servicemember prevent the court from allocating the former spouse one-half of the marital portion in Colorado? Only through negotiation. Period. Unless the former spouse voluntarily agrees to waive a claim to military retirement, a court in Colorado is required to divide it and award the former spouse 50% of the marital portion.