Although members of the military face the same legal system that others use for dissolution of marriage, there are some logistical issues that can make a military divorce a little more challenging. It is important to understand these issues in considering filing for divorce to ensure that details can be handled as efficiently as possible.
A military divorce could be affected by deployment. An individual who is stationed at an overseas location or who is on active duty might not be available for court dates or other meetings related to the action. Residency can also play a significant role in dissolving a marriage due to time requirements. Meanwhile, members of the armed forces are subject to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, legislation that affects expected conduct related to acceptance of state statutes related to spousal support, child support, and retirement benefits. Under the USFSPA, military retirement pay is not considered to be income but rather property and can be treated as a marital asset.
As property distribution is considered in a military divorce, the length of the marriage and military service figure into determination of an ex-spouse’s share of a retirement benefit. There must be at least 10 years of marriage during a 10-year service period for an ex-spouse to receive retirement payments directly. Direct payments to the ex-spouse are dependent on the service member’s retirement date, not becoming effective until after that individual has retired. The percentage may not exceed 50 percent for a spousal benefit or 65 percent for spousal and child support.
Because military assets are governed by special rules, it may be important to review the issues with a lawyer prior to beginning divorce proceedings to determine how the action will affect one’s retirement accounts. Although retirement benefits are governed by the USFSPA’s rules, there are other assets that do not automatically extend to an ex-spouse without a direct decision during the process.
Source: Military.com, “Understanding Divorce in the Military“, November 13, 2014