Although the general process and concerns are somewhat similar, civilian divorce and getting divorced in the military are different. There are special rules and requirements regarding military child support payments, divorce filing requirements, and even pension divisions that influence not just the process, but also, the outcomes in a military divorce case.
How is Getting Divorced in the Military Different from Civilian Divorce Processes?
Whether you’re in for a smooth-sailing, no-fault divorce, or your case is messy and complex, here’s how the military divorce process is different from a civilian divorce process:
Residency and Filing Requirements for Getting Divorced in the Military
For civilians, filing for divorce is limited to their state of residence, but for service members the venue for filing can be where they’re stationed, their legal state of residence, or where their non-military spouse resides.
Although divorce residency requirements for military members are now reduced, the laws of the state where you file for your divorce will control child custody, property distribution, and other important aspects of the process. That’s why it’s always a wise idea to consult a professional divorce attorney before getting divorced in the military.
The Service Members Relief Act (SCRA)
After receiving divorce papers, civilians are given a particular time frame to take action. Failure to do as required grants the petitioner the right to ask for default judgment, essentially giving them their way.
With military divorces, the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows service men and women to request a Stay, and halt divorce proceedings for up to ninety days while on active duty. This is to prevent judgment against the service member while they’re unable to defend themselves because they’re serving the country. Note that you’ll eventually have to deal with the case because the Stay doesn’t stop divorce proceedings forever.
The U.S. military offers military members free legal guidance through Judge Advocate General officers (JAG) stations in military bases. Your spouse is also legally allowed to seek legal counsel from JAG officers.
They can review and revise your divorce documents, offer you advice, write legal letters, and even negotiate for you, but they cannot represent you.
You must hire a civilian divorce attorney if you decide to have representation in the courtroom.
Military Pensions and Benefits
Military pension and benefits divisions are often influenced by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA). Unlike in civilian divorces where the former spouse is entitled to a portion of the petitioner’s property and benefits, an ex-spouse of a military member must fulfill particular stipulations to qualify.
For instance, to qualify for no-cost health coverage benefits (Tricare) and commissary exchange privileges, the ex-spouse must have been married to the service man/woman for at least twenty years which overlapped with 20 years of active military service. This is called the 20/20/20 rule, and your former spouse remains eligible forever as long as they don’t remarry.
Under the USFPA act, military retirement benefits are considered marital property, and your ex-spouse qualifies for direct benefits if they were married to you for at least a decade that overlapped with ten years of active duty. This is known as the 10/10 rule. Military pensions and benefits are generally a murky area, and it helps to have a professional military divorce attorney guide you.
Similar to civilians, military members are legally required to offer adequate child support to their kids in the event of a divorce. The child support obligations may be enforced through a court order of voluntary and involuntary allotment.
Note that there’s no specific dollar amount to define adequate since different states have different child support obligations. Similarly, military branches have unique rules when it comes to child support. For instance, Army child support regulations feature specific provisions that allow a base commander to waive particular child support obligations, while Air Force support rules allow the commander to determine adequate support in the absence of a court order or written agreement.
For both child and spousal support, failure to follow specific obligations may see you face military-style discipline.
Get Professional Assistance When Getting Divorced in the Military
A divorce, whether civilian or military, is emotionally taxing and time-consuming. Add in the special rules and regulations in a military divorce process and it can be even more overwhelming. Having a professional military divorce attorney makes all the difference.
They’ll not only guide you on the unique laws of military divorce but also work in your best interests to get you a justified outcome.
Thinking of calling quits on your marriage? Speak with our team of professional and experienced divorce lawyers for military today to get started.