The Truth About Filing for a Military Divorce
Although any divorce can be complicated, a military divorce has its own particular difficulties. Both federal and state laws apply to the dissolution of a marriage between members of the military and their spouses. If you are in this situation, you need specialized help from a family law attorney.
Although laws vary in different states, generally military divorces can be filed in the state where the military member has a legal residence, the state where the person filing lives, or the state where the military member is currently stationed. This rule can simplify the filing process and also has great bearing on child support and child custody issues. Before you decide where to file, you should research the divorce laws of each possible state and choose the one that best benefits you and your family. For instance, the difference between the laws in Florida and Georgia may differ substantially.
The SCRA, or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, protects active duty service members in case of divorce. Obviously, while you are deployed, you may not be able to immediately respond to a divorce action. The SCRA allows you to delay the divorce while you are actively serving. A judge can grant a series of stays until you are able to hire counsel and properly respond. Remember that these stays must be requested in writing. You can get advice about applying for a stay through military legal services; however, you will need to hire a family law attorney to attend to the actual divorce.
The division of military pensions can be a complicated issue and may differ from state to state. Many military retirement plans are defined-benefit plans and are considered community property that can be divided in the divorce. If the military spouse is not eligible for retirement at the time of your divorce proceedings, a decision on division of the plan can still be made. In figuring out how much an ex-spouse is entitled to from the military spouse’s pension the state judge will utilize a formula based on the length of the marriage and the amount of time the service member spent in the service while married. It’s important to note that if the marriage lasted no less than 10 years and overlaps with time spent in the service by a military spouse, the non-member ex-spouse will receive payments directly from DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Services).
If the length of marriage doesn’t meet the requirements, the service member will be required to pay the non-member spouse their portion directly. The parties can also agree to divide the retirement in any fashion that they choose, or the non-service member may choose to waive the retirement entirely, however, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the court has very little discretion in its division. Overall, many factors go into calculating the division of military pensions and should be discussed with an attorney who is well versed in military divorce law.
If you’re involved in a military divorce, the issues you face are different than what the civilian population faces. As a result, you need to understand both state and federal law. You may get initial advice from military lawyers, but to protect your assets, you need to contact a family law expert like Attorney Laura Spencer Coleman as soon as possible. She handles family law cases throughout the Florida Panhandle. To schedule a consultation with Laura Spencer Coleman, call (850)-626-8520 today.