Divorce is a journey that nobody wants to take. But for military spouses, divorce can be like traveling through a minefield. Although military divorces are similar to civilian divorces in terms of spousal support, couples must go through the state court they reside in for a divorce.
Understanding spousal support
Spousal support, or alimony, differs from the division of assets and debts. Arizona is a community property state, so all assets and debts acquired during the marriage will be equally divided in a divorce. Alimony, however, is awarded to help equalize any income differences between the spouses after the divorce.
Determining spousal support
There is no fixed formula for determining spousal support. It is up to the judge’s discretion to determine what is fair and equitable in each case based on several factors. Examples can include:
- The length of the marriage
- The length of the service member’s military service
- Income differences and earning capacity of each spouse
Spousal support may also be modified or terminated if the recipient remarries or cohabitates with another partner.
Special laws for military members
Although state laws govern divorce cases, several federal laws apply to military members, which may affect alimony. For instance, all military branches have provisions supporting the service member’s family until the final divorce orders. The military does not allow service members to withhold economic support from their spouses or dependents. The Arizona court may consider this when ordering temporary support.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) controls whether a military spouse will receive military benefits after the divorce. The 20-20 rule applies here. Marriage and military service must overlap for at least 20 years to qualify for military benefits.
In the event of failure to pay, an ex-spouse may request a wage garnishment or submit forms requesting an involuntary allotment if it has been more than two months. Note that wage garnishment does not affect a service member’s benefits like BAH.
Navigating the complexities of military spousal support can be challenging. Still, with a solid understanding of the laws and factors, both spouses can work towards a fair and equitable resolution.