Regardless of the specifics of the situation, divorce is always a difficult and stressful process for everyone involved. Dealing with issues like property division, spousal support, child support, and custody while going through one of the most emotional experiences you will ever face can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, if you are a military member there are often several more issues that can complicate the process.
Individuals who are in the military face all of the same difficulties that civilian couples go through, however, there are other unique factors involved that make the process different from that of non-military families. For this reason, you should always have an Upland military divorce lawyer on your side when you enter into divorce proceedings.
Why Is a Military Divorce Different?
Many factors come into play when you are dealing with a military divorce that most individuals have never considered. These issues are a few of the things that make military divorces unique:
- Child support and spousal support must be calculated.
- The Leave and Earnings Statement of the military spouse must be evaluated.
- The Thrift Savings Plan of the military spouse must be evaluated.
- It is necessary to determine how your divorce decisions will affect your taxes, and if there are other consequences to be aware of.
- Post-divorce benefits must be considered.
- Pension benefits for the non-military spouse are a consideration, and a determination must be made on whether they are entitled to any of these benefits.
- A decision must be made on where divorce papers should be filed.
How Does Military Pension Play Into Your Divorce?
In cases where the military spouse has at least twenty years of service, there will typically be a military pension to consider. In many scenarios, the non-military spouse doesn’t have an understanding of the military pension and its value. For instance, if the military member is a Colonel or a Captain, they may have earned a yearly pension of at least $72,000 as a benefit of the many years they served.
In most circumstances, a military spouse who goes through a divorce will get the best result by either having a percentage or a fixed sum of the military pension awarded to them through their divorce settlement. If the couple was married for less than ten years, however, the military pension will not be a component of the divorce settlement. Another consideration in the process is that the pension will end for the former spouse upon the death of the military spouse in most cases. If there is a Uniformed Services Survivor Benefit Plan set in place, though, this will not be true. As you can see, it is wise to have the counsel of a military divorce lawyer to help you navigate the legal details of this type of divorce.
How Does a Divorce Affect Military Pay Division?
Unlike a civilian divorce, military cases involve the military spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement. This document is a detailed record of the individual’s rank, length of military service, earnings, and deductions. Special pay and base pay are separate, and housing and food compose benefits that are non-taxable. If the former spouse of a military member is expecting health benefits, these will be decided under the 20/20/10, 20/20/15, and 20/20/20 rules.
Medical benefits are extended for a lifetime to individuals who were married to a military spouse for twenty years simultaneously to twenty years of service. This is different in other situations, however. For example, in a situation in which a military member served twenty years and had a marriage that lasted for twenty years, but only fifteen of those years overlapped, the ex-spouse may only get twelve months of transitional military medical benefits.
There Are Details in the Rules
The rules mentioned above are an important factor in the details of a military divorce settlement. Some of the facts you should know when you are going through a military divorce are as follows:
- The 20/20/20 rule. This rule states that ex-spouses of military service personnel are entitled to receive full military benefits, and installation benefits as long as the duration of the marriage was no less than twenty years, the military spouse had no less than twenty years of credible service, and the overlap between the military service and the marriage was at least twenty years. This includes lifetime medical benefits.
- The 20/20/15 rule. Transitional military medical benefits may be granted to a former spouse of a military member for one year, if the time the couple was married was at least twenty years, the military spouse served no less than twenty years of credible service, and the overlap between the military service and the marriage was no less than fifteen years.
- The 20/20/10 rule. There is another unique circumstance in which the former spouse of a military member who has suffered documented domestic abuse may receive full military benefits, as well as installation benefits when the overlap of the marriage and the military service was no less than ten years. In this situation, the military spouse must still have served no less than twenty years of credible service, and the marriage must still have lasted at least twenty years.
Understanding the details of these rules that are unique to military families requires a special skill set that a military divorce attorney who specializes in family law is equipped to handle. The knowledgeable professionals at the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires have earned the trust of military clients in the Upland, California area as a result of their diligence in making the process simple for their clients to understand and easing some of the stress involved with the dissolution of a marriage.
How Do You File For Divorce When You Are in the Military?
Typically, couples who are going through a divorce don’t have a choice to make regarding where they file. Each state has specific rules regarding residency that apply to couples who are getting divorced. The general rule of thumb is that you file for your divorce in the place where you live. Military divorces are different in this respect, however, because residency requirements may be complicated to pinpoint.
Look at it this way; if you, along with your spouse came from Nevada originally, but you got married while stationed in Texas, then purchased property while being stationed in Virginia, before moving to California, where are you considered to be a resident? And where must you file your divorce papers?
If you haven’t lived in the state of California for a long enough time to claim residency here, you will need to determine which state your divorce must be filed in. In most civilian cases, if a couple wants to file for divorce in the state of California, one of the two individuals must have been a resident in the state for at least six months, including three months in the county where they intend to file. For military couples, however, this is different.
When a military couple is facing divorce in California, the military member and/or their spouse must be stationed at a military base in the state. When the couple is determining where they should file, they must consider where they own the majority of the property, where their real estate taxes are paid, in which state their driver’s licenses were issued, and where they actually live. This is a lot to piece together and can be even more complicated when the couple has gone through a legal separation and lives in different places. An experienced military divorce lawyer can be a major asset when sorting these details out.
Other Considerations for Military Divorces
If a military spouse is on active duty, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 USC Section 521 allows for the suspension of their divorce proceedings while they are actively serving, and for an additional sixty days afterward. The military spouse can benefit from this Act by opting to not face the anxiety of dealing with divorce papers while they are deployed. If they choose to, however, they may waive the Act.
When a military couple files for divorce, it is similar to a civilian divorce in California in certain ways, such as the fact that it is a community property state. This means that all debts and property that a couple has accumulated during their marriage belong to each spouse equally.
In cases in which there is a property that one spouse received through an inheritance, or that one of the spouses had before they were married, such property is not considered to be community property. The exception to this scenario is when the property has become co-mingled with the assets the couple established while they were married.
When it comes to child support, this determination is made much like it would be in a civilian divorce in the state of California. The primary exception to the rule for military couples is that the amount of child support and spousal support may not exceed 60% of the pay and benefits of the military spouse.
Is It Worth Getting a Military Divorce Lawyer?
Regardless of whether you are a military member, the divorce process can be a long and arduous venture. Many factors come into play, and there are details to consider that add to the stress you are facing during such a difficult time. For this reason, the best decision anyone can make when facing a divorce is seeking the counsel of a skilled divorce attorney. The professionals at the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires have the experience and compassion to walk you through the process and make things as easy as possible for you. Reach out to us today to see how we can help.