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Military Divorces

Divorces in which one or both parties are in the military are more complicated than civilian divorces. They typically include all of the aspects of civilian divorce and more.

Congressional protection
The Service Members Civil Relief Act provides some protections for military personnel, from lawsuits in order that they may “devote their entire energy to the military needs of the nation.”

Delayed proceedings
The Service Members act allows the court to grant a stay of proceedings while the serviceperson is on active duty and for up to 60 days thereafter. It can also protect them from being held in default for failing to respond, under certain circumstances.

Jurisdiction and Residence
Because military personnel are often stationed in states which they do not consider their resident state jurisdiction can be a complicated issue. Variables such as property ownership and which party filed the divorce action can affect jurisdiction. This is an area which will require the help of an experienced attorney.

Retirement pay
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) allows military retirement pay to be treated as property in divorce court. If the marriage lasted for more than ten years and was at the same time as more than ten years of service, then the military can make direct payments to the ex-spouse. If those conditions are not met, the serviceperson may still be required to share retirement payments with the ex-spouse, but those payments will not be made directly by the military.

Disability pay is not automatically divided between spouses, but may be considered in child support and spousal maintenance orders.

Additional benefits
Civilian spouses of military personnel enjoy certain benefits, some of which may continue in the event of a divorce. Various combinations of the length of time the couple was married and the length of time of service will determine if and what portion of these benefits will apply. It is important to consult with an attorney who has ample experience with military divorces, in order to determine which benefits will and will not be available to civilian spouses, and under what conditions.

If you are considering divorce, please contact a matrimonial law attorney today.

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