A divorce is a painful process. It is a terrible feeling to see something you were once so sure of begin to fade. If you are in the military and facing a divorce, your service can add a new layer of confusion and legal variables. Military divorces are very different from the ones civilians face, but you can get through it with a little legal help and by understanding what sets this type of divorce apart.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
One of the first elements of your divorce to understand is the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA). Depending on which state you file for divorce in, that state’s court will decide how to distribute your military retirement pay to your ex.
Note that this is not automatic. Your spouse must be awarded this pay as a part of your divorce. If you are still on active duty and your former spouse is awarded a portion of your retirement pay, the court will decide on a hypothetical amount of your future pay to be awarded.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Working in service to the military provides you breathing room during your divorce as well. Typically, when your partner files for divorce you have a limited timeframe in which to respond. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) identifies that your duty comes first and affords you an extra 90 days or more before you are required to respond.
This is a key time for you to consider speaking to an attorney who specializes in military divorce. The proceedings of a military divorce are complicated, and civil lawyers rarely specialize in this type of litigation. Make use of this extra time and find a professional right for you.
As you may know, all military servicemembers are required to support their dependents while on active duty. This remains true when it comes to child support. Each branch of the military handles child support differently, so speak to an attorney for your specific situation. You can often set up automatic child support payments directly through The Defense Finance and Account Service.
Failure to pay your child support while on active duty can come with severe penalties. Punishment will most likely be left to the discretion of your commanding officer, but common penalties include things like additional rounds of duty, wage garnishment or reduction, reduction of your rank or court martialing.
Military divorces are complicated, but you can make it through if you remain educated and use all the resources at your disposal. Divorcing does not mean the end of the life that you’ve come to know; it’s just a change.