While the military provides numerous benefits for families headed by service members, the perks that soldiers enjoy may not outweigh the stresses of military life and its effect on marriages. In fact, couples with a spouse deployed overseas in conflict regions have higher divorce rates than others in the military. While no one wants to think that the bond they share with a spouse will ever end, if you are about to marry a member of the military, you should educate yourself on how military divorces differ from civilian divorces in order to protect yourself and to make sure you receiving the benefits that you deserve.
Military Divorce Basics and Overseas Deployment
Once you and your military spouse decide that it is time to call it quits, you must follow the divorce rules for your state. However, the military also has divorce regulations that you must follow during the dissolution of your marriage. Consequently, make sure to hire an attorney with experience representing clients in the armed forces.
If your spouse is deployed overseas during divorce proceedings, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will come into play. The law protects soldiers who must postpone responding to a spouse, judge orders and even child custody judgments if their deployment duties present obstacles to divorce proceedings.
However, while the law provides relief for those who are unable to respond in a timely manner to court orders, it does not excuse a complete failure to respond. The SCRA enables your spouse to delay responding to paperwork or attending a mandated court appearance by at least 90 days.
In addition, if your divorce involves difficult circumstances such as domestic violence and you file charges against your spouse, the SCRA does not apply to criminal proceedings.
Overseas Divorces and Returning From Abroad
If you are overseas with your spouse, unfortunately, you cannot get divorced on foreign soil. Your divorce can only be granted in your home state: the location where you are registered to vote and pay local income tax.
You must hire a lawyer licensed to practice in your home state to represent you and begin the divorce proceedings on your behalf if the dissolution is contentious.
In addition to obtaining alimony from your ex, you may also qualify for certain military benefits depending on how long you were married to a service member spouse.
If you were married for at least 10 years while your spouse was in the military, you are eligible to receive a portion of your soon-to-be ex's retirement income per the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA). You will receive the payments directly from the military.
The maximum amount you can receive is 50 percent of your ex's military retirement pay. If your spouse dies, you will no longer receive the payments.
You may also be eligible to continue receiving military healthcare benefits depending on how long you were married to a service member. If you do not meet the minimum requirements for keeping your military healthcare plan after your divorce, you can receive temporary coverage for up to 36 months after your marriage ends in the government-sponsored Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP).
Securing Child Support
While each state has specific rules for child support, each branch of the military also has additional regulations mandating how service members must take care of their children after a divorce.
In addition to the judgement handed down by a civilian judge for child support, the military can order that a parent's wages be garnished and applied towards child support payments.
In order to have the military help enforce a state's judgement, you must provide proof of the financial terms of a court order. Make sure that the attorney you hire is well-versed in the armed service's regulations for child support.
If your children have a military ID card, they will be eligible for armed services medical benefits until they are 21 and up to 23 if they are full-time students.
For more information about a military divorce, contact an attorney with experience in this type of divorce.