The differences of divorce involving a military service member

| Jan 24, 2020 | Divorce

When your spouse decided to enroll in the military, you may not have been married at the time. Once you two got married, you certainly didn’t expect a divorce in your future, but sometimes, we have to navigate the unpredictable.

Some elements, accessible to only military members and their families, make divorce a different process for those involved.

These elements include: the Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (USFSPA), the Service Member’s Civil Relief Act, military retirement pay and pension provisions, and the calculating of marital shares.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act

The USFSPA provides a statute that expects military members to follow the state divorce laws of their permanent residence when dealing with child custody, spousal support and military pay and pension issues. Though it depends on the decision of the state you reside in, your military retirement payments could count as property instead of income.

The Service Member’s Civil Relief Act

This act protects the legal rights of active duty service members. The act states:

  • If a service member is currently on active duty in a location that disallows them to attend or respond to divorce requirements, a civil court or administrative “stay” will be put in place. Thus allowing the active duty member an extension to meet their divorce requirements.
  • Safeguards are put in place for active-duty members who do not respond to a lawsuit or fail to attend their trial when involving default judgments. A default judgment is a verdict in favor of one party due to the party in question, not showing up for a trial or failing to respond to a divorce summons in a timely manner.

Military retirement pay and pension provisions

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service handles retirement payments for retired military members. The only way a service member’s ex-spouse can receive retirement payments is if the said couple was married for a minimum of 10 years that overlapped 10 years of active service.

Marital shares

Marital shares have to do with calculating the percentage of the retired service member’s pension that the ex-spouse will receive upon retirement. Once again, the length of military service will be credited when determining the amount received.

There are also other benefits, such as a thrift savings plans, survivor benefits plans, base privileges and Tricare that would be best to discuss with educated military personnel or a family law attorney that handles divorces involving service members.