Military service can take a toll on relationships. As U.S. military veterans, the partners at Lincoln & Wenk know firsthand how the stresses of military life can impact your marriage and other aspects of your life. Long deployments, high-stress duties, confidentiality requirements, and frequent moves can all have a negative effect on family relationships.
When members of the military divorce, they face the same issues as any other divorcing couple: division of property, dividing up responsibility for debts, spousal maintenance, child custody and visitation, and child support. But, a military divorce may also involve special considerations. For example, dividing parenting time may be difficult when a service member can be relocated at any time, or is stationed somewhere far from the children for long periods. And, military and veterans’ benefits may be treated differently than the same types of benefits from a civilian employer.
At Lincoln & Wenk, you get the best of both worlds. Our attorneys have extensive experience with complex divorce issues, including the issues that specifically impact members of the military and their spouses. We also understand how difficult the situation is, and are committed to helping you resolve your case the best way for you. We know divorce isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and we’re here to find the solution that best suits your needs.
Special Considerations in a Military Divorce Case
(1) Where to File
A military service member or the spouse of a member of the military may have more than one option for filing a divorce case. This may sound like a technical point, but where a divorce case is filed can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. For example, Arizona is a community property state, which means property acquired during the marriage will be divided more or less equally. That may be beneficial to one spouse but detrimental to the other, meaning that the person who files the case and chooses the venue may give themselves an advantage when it comes to dividing debts and assets.
Where you file can also impact the authority the divorce court has to divide military retirement benefits. The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) gives state divorce courts authority to treat military retired pay as appropriate under state law. That means that the non-military spouse may or may not be entitled to a share of retired military pay, depending on the laws of the state where the case is filed.
However, that authority only attaches if the court has jurisdiction over the service member for one of three reasons:
- The service member resides in that jurisdiction, for reasons other than military service,
- The service member is legally domiciled in that jurisdiction, or
- The service member consents to jurisdiction
So, where the case is filed can impact both the court’s authority over military retirement pay and how that pay is divided. Talking to an experienced military divorce lawyer before you file can help avoid missteps that might have a negative impact on the outcome of your case.
(2) The Service Member May Be Able to Delay the Divorce Proceedings
The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was passed to protect the rights of military service members who might be unable to respond to or participate in civil legal proceedings in a timely manner due to military service. Active duty service members and certain reservists and members of the National Guard enjoy protections that may include being shielded from default judgments and the right to delay proceedings by up to 90 days in certain circumstances.
(3) Child Support May Be Available Before You File
The non-military spouse may be able to seek assistance directly from the military to get child support before a divorce case has even been filed, or while the case is pending and no orders have been entered. That’s because the military requires its members to support their children. Most branches of the service even have their own standards for how much child support should be paid.
When it’s time to get court-ordered support, though, the amount will be determined by state law in the jurisdiction where the case is filed. To ensure that child support is calculated correctly, it’s important to understand the various aspects of military pay, or to work with an attorney experienced in calculating child support based on military pay. An attorney experienced with military divorce can also assist with the garnishment process for child support, which differs from the standard process for garnishing wages in the state.
(4) Post-Divorce Medical Coverage Options are Different in a Military Divorce
If you’re covered by your civilian spouse’s employer-sponsored medical insurance, you typically have a right to COBRA coverage to bridge the gap between your divorce and obtaining your own coverage. When your medical coverage is provided by the military due to your spouse’s service, it doesn’t work that way.
Your options will depend in part on the length of your marriage and the duration of military service. To qualify for continuing TRICARE coverage after your divorce, you’ll have to show that you were married to your spouse for at least 20 years, your spouse served in the military for at least 20 years, and your marriage and the military service overlapped by at least 20 years.
For those who don’t meet that high bar, transitional coverage is typically available through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program. For most former military spouses, this coverage is limited to 36 months. There are some exceptions, so it’s important to make sure you understand your rights.
(5) Child Custody and Visitation
While the law regarding custody and visitation is unchanged for members of the U.S. military, the practical aspects of parenting time can be much more complicated. For instance, it can be very difficult to manage shared parenting when one parent is stationed overseas with the military–or when both parents are stationed in different foreign countries. The military divorce attorneys at Lincoln & Wenk have experience working with military parents to arrive at solutions that protect the children’s relationships with both parents despite the logistic obstacles often associated with military service.
Attorneys for Your Military Divorce
There’s a lot at stake in any divorce case, and military divorce cases often involve special complications. Give yourself the benefit of an experienced military divorce lawyer from the beginning. Call 623-294-2464 right now.