Special Rules For Divorce In Military Families

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Military divorce has different spousal support guidelines. Besides spousal support guidelines, military divorce differs from civil divorce in many ways.

Spousal Support

Generally divorce is regulated by state law. However when one spouse is in the military, federal statutes will govern certain aspects of the divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protect Act determines the calculation and division of military retirement benefits. The former spouse will be eligible for full medical, commissary and exchange benefits if:

  • The marriage is over 20 years and
  • The military spouse has been in service for at least 20 years as required for retired pay and
  • There is at least a 20 years overlap of the military service and marriage

Once the spouse remarries, he or she will not longer be eligible for these benefits. However if the second marriage ends by divorce or death, the spouse will once again be eligible for these benefits.

Enforcing Spousal Support Obligations

If the military spouse does not obey spousal support orders, the other spouse can approach the military spouse’s commanding officer. Members of the military are expected to comply with spousal and child support orders passed by the courts. Members who do not comply with such orders will be severely penalized by the military. They may even be separated from military service. If there is no court order and the spouses cannot agree on support, the military has its own family support guidelines.

Other Special Rules

The spouse on active duty must be personally served with the summons and divorce papers. In the absence of personal service upon the spouse on active duty, the court will not have jurisdiction over that spouse. If spouse on active duty has signed and filed a waiver affidavit in which he or she has acknowledged the divorce proceeding, then he or she need not be served if it is an uncontested divorce. A court order about military retirement plan will not be enforceable unless it is filed in place of residence or domicile of the military spouse or at a place where both spouses agree. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act the divorce proceedings must be postponed for the entire duration the military spouse is on active duty and for another 60 days thereafter.

Getting Legal Help

Military divorce is different from civil divorce. If your spouse is in the military and you are considering a divorce, consult with a divorce attorney specializing in military divorce.

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