Technically, the law treats a military divorce the same as a civilian divorce. However, due to a variety of factors that affect the military lifestyle, you as a service member may have additional concerns about divorce that a civilian does not.
While alimony, custody and property division are concerns of all divorcing couples, these things can be more complicated in your divorce. Here are three unique factors you will contend with during a military divorce.
Spousal support for civilian spouse
Due to the demands of a military lifestyle, spousal support may be a higher priority for your civilian spouse. Military families often must relocate regularly. This may have made it difficult for your spouse to retain gainful employment or go to school to increase their individual earning potential. Because of this, you may need to provide financial support for your spouse through alimony after your divorce.
Child custody is more complicated
As with civilian divorce cases, child custody is often a big concern for military families going through divorce. Courts will generally determine custody based on the best interests of the children. These decisions can be challenging with a military parent, as deployment can be disruptive to a child’s life.
Divorce law is under state jurisdiction While the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act states that deployment cannot be the sole determining factor in a custody case, Maryland has not adopted this Act.
However, there are provisions that protect your interests. For example, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows for civil proceedings, like custody hearings, to be put on hold for a set amount of time. This can help prevent your spouse from altering your custody agreement while you are deployed.
The state of Maryland also stipulates that a civilian spouse must reasonably accommodate a service member’s deployment schedule and allow for electronic and telecommunications between children and a deployed military parent.
Pension and retirement
Though retirement is often a contentious issue for civilian divorces as well, the division of a retirement plan may be more crucial for a civilian spouse who has sacrificed some earning potential to provide family support for a military spouse.
Since 1982, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) has defined military pensions as marital property. This means that in an equitable distribution state like Maryland, the courts may divide the pension in a manner that they deem fair for each spouse.
There are many sacrifices that you’ve made to serve your country. However, you do not need to sacrifice control over family life after a divorce. Though military divorces can often be more complicated, you can work through the issues with planning, knowledge and proper execution.