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.


About Author

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?

  3. me and my ex husband divorced and doing our divorce he made a fake decree which was voided asap and tried to submit well did submit the fake decree to all areas in signing out army after 20 years…we was married 16 years before he retired I was award half of retirement but once he retired he sumitted fake decree and waived my portion for va benefits I took him back to court where he was held in contempt I want to know is there anyone I can notify at va to remove that fake decree and honor the real one I have all evidence needed is this legal what he did because our agreement was set in stone before retirement he played a dirty game and this will be the last I need my name corrected and all money owed refunded help me please

    • There are two ways you can pursue this matter. The first is to consult an attorney who is familiar with federal personnel matters. The second is to write a letter to your Member of Congress, asking his or her help in resolving the matter. The Member can send your request to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will be more responsive than if you wrote the agency directly.

  4. Hi,

    My divorce was final as of November of 2020. I recently received a letter asking for a percentage of my potential retirement should I seek to sell back my military time. I was in the USMC for 17 years and my reenlistment was rejected due to force down sizing. I do not have a retirement. We were married for just shy of 8 years.

    My lawyer feels that I will have to sign over a portion of the “potential retirement” should I seek federal employment but it feels wrong to commit to a percentage of my future retirement since it would be based on a much higher earning potential.

    • I’m not qualified to answer your question. If you’re not comfortable with the opinion your lawyer provided, you may want to consult another attorney to see what he or she would say.

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