November 5, 2015, by Emma Sturgis – Divorce is difficult in any situation, but a military family going through a divorce faces unique challenges. While military members who get divorced go through the same legal process as anyone else, there are additional factors that can affect a military divorce, including military pensions, health coverage, and retirement savings.
Why the State in Which You File for Divorce Matters
Couples are typically allowed to file for divorce in the state in which either spouse maintains a legal residence, although the person who files for divorce typically files in the state in which he or she lives. A military divorce adds an additional caveat to this consideration: while federal law states that the state in which the military member lives has the power to divide a military pension during a divorce, the court system may not have the authority if the divorce is filed in another state. There are other state laws that can affect how the pension is divided as well.
Military Pension Division is Complex
Dividing military retirement pay can be a very complex issue during a military divorce. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is in charge of direct retirement payments. Direct payments will only be made to an ex-spouse if the marriage lasted for 10 years that overlapped 10 years of service. This does not mean an ex-spouse is not entitled to a portion of payments if this requirement is met, only that criteria must be included in the divorce settlement agreement.
Active Duty Service Members Can Request a Stay in the Case
In a typical divorce, the spouse responding to divorce papers is required to file a formal answer within a specific time frame so the next stages of the divorce can be scheduled. If one spouse is on active duty, federal law can affect the deadlines of the divorce.
Under the Service Members Civil Relief Act, active duty service members can request a stay or hold on the divorce if his or her duties prevent responding to the action. An initial stay of 90 days may be granted along with extensions.
Every Service Has Rules on Child Support Amounts
Child support is determined by the law in which the divorce is filed, although it is possible to get assistance directly through the military before a court determines a child support amount. Sometimes child support will still be required years after one’s military career has ended. An Albert Lea DWI attorney specializing in military divorce says child support is generally paid until either the child turns eighteen, graduates high school, or is emancipated. Until this time, military members are required to provide sufficient child support and each service, with the exception of the Air Force, has specific rules on how much a military member should pay. The military member’s commanding officer can offer assistance with getting child support. Once a child support order is issued, it can be submitted directly to the military pay center to be handled within the military.
Because military divorces are so complex, it’s important for service members and spouses to seek legal counsel as early as possible to avoid potentially costly errors. Most military bases do provide military legal assistance attorneys, although these lawyers cannot represent either party in a divorce. If you are considering divorce, be sure to seek an attorney who specializes in these complex issues.