Is an ex-wife of a retired navy chief eligible by law to receive half of his navy pension?

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It depends on the legal terms of their divorce - if the divorce agreement specifically entitles the ex-spouse to the member's pension (percentage determined by the agreement), then yes, she is entitled. However, without such terms in the divorce or other separate legal agreement, the former spouse has no claim on the member's pension.

For example, a good friend of mine was married to an abusive husband for many years, and part of her divorce settlement gives her half of his retirement - since he's an FBI agent, that'll keep her set pretty well.

It's important to remember that marriage is a legally binding contract as well as a relationship, and when that contract is dissolved, so too are any legal claims the two partners have against each other unless they are a part of the divorce agreement.
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