Military divorces are somewhat more complicated than others because of the special rules and requirements that apply to U.S. service members and their spouses. These differences often create issues pertaining to such things as support, residency or filing requirements, and military pensions. The following is an overview of some of the steps you may need to take when getting divorced from a spouse in the U.S. military.
Get to Know Military Divorce Laws
Unlike a regular divorce, a military divorce is governed by both state and federal laws. Federal laws may impact the division of military pensions, while state laws could change how alimony and spousal support are decided. Look into the applicable laws and seek the advice of a professional.
One outstanding alternative that allows couples to avoid lawyers and courts entirely is to hire divorce mediators. San Diego military couples should definitely consider this alternative before moving forward with divorce proceedings.
The court needs the power (also known as the “jurisdiction” or the authority) to grant a divorce and bind the parties to the court’s orders. This is easy to determine for civilians, since jurisdiction is generally determined by where the person lives. However, for military personnel, jurisdiction may be the place where the person is stationed or maintains a legal residence.
Be Aware of Residency and Filing Requirements
U.S. military personnel and their spouses basically have three choices when it comes to where they can file for divorce:
- The state where the filing spouse resides
- The state where the military member is stationed
- The state where the military member claims to hold legal residency
You’ll need to investigate and determine which of these choices you should make.
Watch for Automatic Stay for Active Duty Relief
Military members who are on active duty have certain protections in court proceedings, such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which can “stay” or temporarily hold up the entire case if the divorce case was filed while the service member was on active duty or within 90 days from his or her release from active duty. Be careful not to file for divorce during active duty.
Divide Military Pensions and Benefits
Courts look to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) regarding the division of military pensions and other retirement benefits between spouses in a divorce. Not all states treat military retirement pay as community property, and the USFSPA doesn’t say how to divide the amount of retired pay, so the specific state laws will govern. Get familiar with these laws and seek professional advice in your state.
Consider Options for Spousal and Child Support
Special rules regarding spousal support (alimony) and child support exist for the military, and these rules ensure the military member’s family support obligations continue even after a divorce or separation. You can seek to have a court enforce spousal and child support by requesting a court order to that effect or by way of wage garnishment or a voluntary or involuntary allotment. You may also request that the court require the breadwinner spouse to maintain life insurance that would cover child or alimony support payments for a certain period.
For couples who want the opportunity to make the divorce process as smooth, respectful, and amicable as possible, there’s an amazing alternative to the animosity and high costs of traditional divorce: divorce mediation. San Diego couples can rely on Divorce Options San Diego’s experienced divorce mediators to handle every aspect of their divorces, and there will be no need to spend a small fortune on attorneys who are focused on winning instead of ensuring fairness and mutual satisfaction for both spouses. To learn more about how divorce mediation can be the best option for you and your spouse, call the expert mediators at Divorce Options San Diego today at (858) 281-2628.