Although no less painful than a standard divorce, filing for divorce in military families comes with legal specifics that make the divorce process one that can be tough to navigate. Before entering into divorce proceedings, make sure you have the necessary facts in order to promote the likelihood of a smooth divorce.
What Are the Key Issues Surrounding Divorce in Military Families?
The standard issues like child custody and the division of marital property remain, but the details can quickly become muddled for a member of the divorcing party who is not in the military.
Servicemembers Can Delay Proceedings
In the average divorce, one spouse serves divorce papers to the other. Whether or not the divorce is agreed, according to Texas law, the spouse must respond within 20 days. This allows proper time for either the drafting of a counter-petition or the start mediation and court hearings.
However, if a service member is on active duty, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows the potential for said member to delay proceedings and other claims like:
- Child Support
- Child Custody
- Property Division
- Division of Military Retirement
This can only occur if the servicemember’s current duties prevent them from responding to court actions. This stay can’t last forever but lasts at least 90 days and beyond with court granted extensions.
The 20/20/20 rule means that certain rights are upheld if:
- You have been married at least 20 years
- The servicemember in the relationship has at least 20 years of service creditable for retirement pay
- You have at least a 20-year overlap between marriage and military service.
Keep in mind that even though you are now a former military spouse. getting divorced, the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act will keep certain benefits in place ff you meet the 20/20/20 rule and are not remarried.
If you meet the requirements after your divorce you are entitled to retain medical, commissary and exchange privileges. However, you can still receive partial insurance benefits meeting a 20/20/15 requirement. Also, if you don’t meet the 20/20/15 requirement, you may still be entitled to some transitional insurance.
Division of Military Retirement
The issue of the distribution of retired military pay is NOT dependent on the amount of time in the service or the length of the marriage. A spouse may seek a portion of the retired military as long as there was a marriage of any duration during any term of military service.
When dividing military pay, the former spouse must decide whether or not she or he will be wanting to receive Survivor’s Rights Benefits, as there is a limited time in which this selection must be made.
Complications with Child Custody
When possible, divorcing parents should always have a co-parenting plan in place. Sometimes, though, the military creates uncertainty with unexpected deployments and classified locations. Should this situation arise, make sure your family has an alternate plan in place that puts your children first.
Military Offers (Some) Legal Assistance
No matter the branch of military served, there is the opportunity for legal assistance on most bases. However, beyond general letters, pension concerns and the revision of legal documents, the majority of these attorneys cannot represent you in your divorce.
This opens you up to leaving the representation in the hands of a trusted divorce lawyer, who can truly assist you with all aspects of your situation.
Get Your Divorce Settled Peacefully with Marx, Altman & Johnson
At Marx, Altman & Johnson, we are family attorneys that want you to be prepared for the divorce process. We are available to answer all of the questions you may have during this tumultuous time in your life. If you’re going through a divorce in Dallas and need help from a trusted divorce attorney, contact us to schedule your free consultation