In parts one and two, we covered an overview of military divorce and discussed special considerations regarding children and military divorce. In our final post in this series, we’ll examine implications for pensions and alimony as well as how to advocate for your rights and a fair result.

How Military Pension Works

When a service member retires after a minimum of 20 years of service, he or she receives a pension as compensation. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act of 1982, these pensions are considered marital property. As such, they are split during the divorce, and that division can be negotiated. In many cases, the deciding factor is the length of the marriage and whether it overlapped with the person’s time in the service and, if so, for how long. Again, that division does not need to be equal.

Under the USFSPA, state courts can withdraw a maximum of 50 percent of the retired person’s pension. Although the courts might award a higher amount, the retired person will then need to pay the difference directly to his or her ex. In addition, the marriage needed to last a minimum of 10 years in order to go through the finance center. If the court does grant pension to a person whose marriage lasted less than 10 years, then he or she again needs to directly pay the ex.
In some cases, the spouse might trade off a smaller portion of the pension for another consideration, such as a house. The spouse should consult with a family law attorney to see which option makes the most strategic sense depending on the situation.

Survivor’s Benefit Plan

The spouse should ensure that he or she is included in the Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP), which continues to pay the pension if the spouse precedes him or her in death. The SBP is separate from the pension, and it should be assessed accordingly.

Service Members Group Life Insurance

During a divorce, the couple can also negotiate naming the ex as the beneficiary in the Service Members Group Life Insurance policy. This money can be designed to replace child support payments should the person die while serving his or her country. For example, the ex can receive $80,000, while the remainder can be placed into a trust for the children.

Additional Military Benefits

An ex-spouse might also be entitled to full medical, theater, exchange and commissary privileges under the following circumstances:

•    The couple was married for at least 20 years
•    The service member accumulated a minimum of 20 years of service and
•    The military service and the marriage had at least a 20-year overlap.

Pension Payments and Your Military Divorce

Pension negotiations can be quite complex, especially if a couple has been married for 20 years or more. Our family law firm understands these challenges. Contact us at 763-323-6555 to find out how we can help.

In a military divorce, the nonmilitary spouse likely has not worked outside the home or possibly only held down part-time employment in order to accommodate the lifestyle with moves and lengthy deployments.

On the one hand, nonmilitary spouses often struggle to find employment because of those factors. On the other hand, they can frequently build strong cases for child custody. After all, the military professional’s frequent deployments may make child care complicated if not impossible.

Considering the Best Interests of the Child

The judge will consider what’s in the best interests of your children. If he or she determines that military-related moves could hurt the children emotionally and socially or disrupt schooling, sports, medical treatment or other activities, the judge might award custody to the parent who is less likely to move.

Special Considerations

Since both parties understand the need for cooperation in the event of sudden deployments, they should work with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can provide them with good advice on how to proceed.

Similar to a civilian divorce, a military custody plan should consider diverse factors, such as:

•    The age of the children
•    The possibility of deployment and a plan of action
•    A plan of action for a return from deployment and
•    Visitation in the event of a stateside or international deployment.

In addition, assess the custody plan according to the age of each child and future considerations. You might need to make adjustments based on a different job, remarriage or other relevant criteria.

Collecting Child Support

In some cases, the parties will need a temporary order to address the payment of daily expenses during the separation until the divorce is finalized. Both parents must support their children, and the court will consider the following factors when ordering payments:

•    The number of children
•    Any special needs
•    Shared custody arrangements
•    The number and frequency of overnight visits with the non-custodial parent and
•    Other relevant factors.

The military enforces the collection of child support via the following methods:

•    Wage garnishments
•    Voluntary or involuntary allotments and
•    Court orders.

Addressing Custody Matters in Your Military Divorce

Due to the relocation of military parents, custody issues can lead to especially sensitive conversations and debates. Our experienced and skilled family law team can suggest solutions; call us for help at 763-323-6555.

From 2001 until 2011, the divorce rate rose from 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent for military couples, according to the Defense Department. The military enforces special regulations for divorces in order to protect both enlisted individuals and their spouses. These cover a gamut of issues, including processing the divorce, residency matters, compliance, custody and the division of pensions. In part one of this extended series, we’ll overview the military divorce process. Part two will address how children are affected by military divorces, and part three will cover pensions and spousal support.

Divorce Jurisdiction

Active duty personnel are immune from divorce proceedings, so that they can focus on their service to the U.S. When a military couple divorces, either party can usually file wherever they are stationed, even if neither individual is a resident of that state. In addition, they have other options as well, including filing in the state where either spouse claims legal residency.

Once the spouse files, then he or she will need to follow the laws of that state regarding the divorce, division of property and child custody and support. For clarification, contact the legal aid office at your local military base. Be advised that the JAG office can only provide general advice and cannot prepare divorce paperwork, represent clients or file the legal documents in court. Indeed, a military attorney does not need to be licensed in the state, so he or she might not know local laws. Thus, the person who files for divorce should also contact a qualified local family law attorney.

Military Identification Cards

The military member does not have the right to confiscate his or her spouse’s ID card, since those cards are granted by Congress and not by the military person. If the spouse does confiscate the card, he or she can face larceny charges. Even when the spouse refuses to sign a card, the Personnel Office can still issue one. However, the nonmilitary spouse will likely lose the card upon divorce, except if the spouse served for at least 20 years and if the couple was also married for at least 20 years. The ID card qualifies the spouse for medical, theater, commissary and other benefits. If the former spouse remarries, he or she will lose those benefits.

Understanding the Nuances of a Military Divorce

In addition to state laws, military personnel need to adhere to specific federal regulations when it comes to divorce. Our experienced legal team knows how to navigate the complex issues related to military separations. Call us for a no-obligation consultation at 763-323-6555.