How Is a Military Divorce Handled?

Military Divorces

Divorce brings with it its own issues for couples and families to deal with, but when one or both spouses are members of the military, there are specific laws that must be followed that are different from civilian divorces.

A family lawyer in Rockville, MD, such as from the Law Office of Daniel Wright, understands the unique challenges that a military divorce can present. Divorce attorneys have extensive experience handling these cases and are happy to meet and explain what some of your legal options are. Contact a law office for a free consultation.

Special Challenges

One of the most challenging aspects of a military divorce is the actual filing of the action. If one of the parties does not agree to the divorce, serving them with a petition of divorce can become difficult, especially if they are not stationed in the same jurisdiction as the spouse who is filing for the action. Legally, that court would have no jurisdiction over the spouse who is stationed away. The only way to get around this issue is for the non-filing spouse to waive personal service. If they refuse, then the issue becomes much more complicated.

Another challenge in a military divorce is the timeframes required by the court. Depending on what state you live in, the spouse that is receiving the petition for divorce has only 60 days to respond back. But if the spouse receiving the petition is deployed, they will likely be unable to respond within that time frame. Failing to respond to a petition of divorce means you are defaulting, and the courts could grant the filing spouse everything they are asking for, including full custody.

In order to avoid penalizing service members in this situation, most states have passed laws that allow any divorce or custody action to be postponed until the service member’s tour of duty ends. Your divorce attorney can explain what the provisions of this law are in the state you live in.

Military Pensions and Asset Division

In civilian divorces, pensions and retirement accounts are considered marital assets and therefore become part of the divorce settlement. Depending on how the assets are divided, one spouse could be granted a percentage of the other spouse’s pension or they could get a bigger percentage of real estate or other assets and the spouse keeps their pension.

However, in a military divorce, the service member’s pension may not be part of the marital estate. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), there are certain criteria that need to be met in order for the spouse to be entitled to any portion of the service member’s pension. The couple must have been married for a minimum of ten years, during which time the service member must have been active, otherwise, the spouse is not entitled to any of the pension.

In most cases, child support and spousal support are handled the same way they are in civilian divorces. There is one exception, however, and that is that the support payment the service member is ordered to pay cannot be any more than 60 percent of their salary.

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