Top 5 Tips for a Military Divorce
Divorce affects millions of families across the United States, and military families are no exception. In fact, research shows that long and more frequent deployments undermine marital satisfaction and lead to more divorce among U.S. troops.
Although divorce frequently affects civilian and military families alike, it is important to understand that military divorces differ in key ways from a more standard divorce. Here are five tips that will prove helpful when navigating a military divorce.
1. Hire a Lawyer With Military Divorce Experience
For something as intricate as military divorce, you will need a family lawyer who has helped previous military families through a divorce. A military divorce has its own rules regarding important issues pertaining to property division, such as military pensions.
Similarly, there may be unique protections in place for military members who are deployed regarding emergency court orders for child support. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, for example, is a federal law that can put the brakes on court proceedings if a party’s military duties or deployment prevent them from making a court appearance.
Given these considerations, make sure your case is in good hands by seeking out a lawyer who is experienced in military divorce.
2. You Can File Divorce Where You Are Living at the Time
Civilian divorces require a spouse to establish residency in a given state before they can file for divorce. As a general rule, a party can file for a military divorce where they are living at the time. If a servicemember and spouse are living on a Florida military base, for example, the servicemember may file for divorce in Florida.
This fact means both parties may have choices when it comes to where to file for divorce. The couple might have been married in one state, all while living on base in a second state and owning property in a third state.
To simplify, military members and their spouses can file for divorce where:
- The filing spouse resides
- The military member is stationed
- Where the military member claims legal residency
This is important since state laws will control issues like property distribution, child custody and support considerations. Simply put, where you file matters, so talk to your family lawyer if you have options.
3. It May Be in Your Best Interests to Press Pause on Divorce
Even if you are confident the marriage is over, waiting to file for divorce may be the most prudent fiscal decision you can make. Under the 20/20/20 rule, a spouse can qualify for medical benefits (and commissary and exchange privileges) for life if all the following are true:
- The couple was married for at least 20 years
- The military member performed at least 20 years of creditable military service for retirement pay purposes
- The couple has at least 20 overlapping years of marriage and military service
If you have been married for 19 years, holding off to obtain these benefits can be quite valuable. As always, talk to an experienced military divorce lawyer to determine whether waiting is best for your specific case.
4. Military Wages Can Be Garnished to Pay Child Support
Military members have a duty to support their children and spouses, and this requirement means the military member’s wages may be garnished to fulfill this obligation. This requirement can give military spouses unique options when it comes to collecting against a spouse who is not paying required child support.
For example. a nonmilitary ex-spouse can pursue the matter with their ex-spouse’s commanding officer. This unique military divorce dynamic once again underscores why you need a lawyer who is familiar with the nuances and distinct aspects of a military divorce.
5. Get Organized and Then Trust Your Lawyer
These tips should make it clear by now that you are going to need the help of a military divorce lawyer. That said, you can also help your lawyer and your case by getting all your paperwork together.
Having a record of everything you share or shared as spouses will go a long way toward simplifying divorce complexity since your lawyer will have key information from the outset.
If you have questions regarding Tampa family law, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]