Military buyback and divorce


Q. I have 16 years of military service. My intent is to end my service with the military and work for the federal government. How do I get retirement credit for my military service? Does it transfer over?

I am a divorcee and, if I retire from the military, I will be paying my ex-wife a percentage. How will my retirement be split with my ex-wife if I retire from the federal government?

A. Nonretired members of the military get credit for leave accrual purposes for any periods of active-duty service. Retired members don’t.

Neither get credit for length of service or retirement purposes unless they make a deposit to the civilian retirement system. Further, retired members must waive their military retired pay when they retire from their civilian job. If their former spouses are entitled to a portion of their military retired pay, they are barred by law from making that deposit and waiving their military retired pay. Whether a former spouse would be entitled to benefits from future employment would depend on the terms of the court order ending the marriage. You’d need to consult an attorney about that.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to


  1. I purchased 7 years and 4 months of my military time to go towards my FERS retirement. I was married at the time I purchased this military time. My ex-husband wants all of this buy-in time. I want to just give him half the cost of the buy-in and keep the time purchased. Of the buy-in time 36 months I was not married and for 52 of the months I was married. How should this buy-in time be figured?

    • This is a matter that can only be determined during the divorce proceedings. Your ex-husband has no entitlement to anything that is not included in the court order ending your marriage.

    • Please download a copy of these 2 references from OPM’s website: Handbook RI38-116, A Handbook for Attorneys on Court-ordered Retirement, Health Benefits, and Life Insurance; Pamphlet RI84-1, Pamphlet on Court-Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses. Make sure your Attorney reads RI38-116. These are critical to understanding how to properly apportion benefits for former spouses.

  2. Where in the regulation or policy that states I (we) are barred by law from making that deposit and waiving their military retired pay? I retired from the military 22 years and I bought back my time fully paid. I asked for a refund and OPM said “NO” because I didn’t meet the requirement for a refund unless I don’t waive my retirement pay at the time I submit my FERS retirement. But If am barred why not refund me?

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