Military Divorce

Understanding Military Divorce

By November 14, 2014 No Comments

Understanding Military Divorce

Military divorce is usually considered to be significantly different from a non-military divorce. These differences generally make themselves known in the process of obtaining personal service, complying with rules and regulations set by the military, and dividing a military pension.  Military divorce has special procedures that need to be followed especially if the member is active duty.

In order for any court to assert its jurisdiction over a military divorce, the Petitioner will have to serve the active member with a petition for the dissolution, as well as a valid summons. Because of this, if the service member in question is currently deployed overseas, the process of completing a military divorce can be somewhat challenging.

The Military and Divorce

Divorce is not a simple process for anybody. Military divorce can be especially taxing within California because of the requirements the state imposes on service members that are deployed, living overseas or currently existing outside of the California jurisdiction.  Parties who are considering divorce with an active duty military member will often benefit from learning more about the path that is ahead of them before they start this trying process.

If you are the Petitioner in the case and your spouse is a service member who has been deployed overseas, completing service becomes extremely difficult.  The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will be a factor in your case.  SCRA will postpone or suspend certain legal matters that are pending in court while the servicemember is located. The law states service members cannot be held responsible for not replying to a divorce petition when they are deployed, but it does not allow the military spouse to neglect the papers. If the service member fails to respond to the divorce, then the court may choose to appoint a reserve, civilian natural or active duty person as an officer of the court to serve the papers on their behalf.

The SCRA will appoint an attorney to located the military member and report to the court on his location and ability to participate in a divorce. During that time, there will be a stay in the case meaning the court cannot make any orders for support or division of assets.  If you are in need of support and your spouse is not paying, you should immediately contact their command to enforce military regulations for family support.  The court cannot make any orders while the stay is in place.

Federal Laws Regarding Military Divorce

Recently, federal laws and regulations have undergone some changes that should make personal service much simpler for military couples with children when the spouse is stationed overseas. Regardless of the location of the spouse in active duty, uniformed service members and federal agencies will be required to take on the responsibility of facilitating the legal process.

Military assets, including military pension of the service member, are valuable, and can be divided between spouses much like the standard assets within a regular divorce case. However, it is necessary for both spouses within a military divorce to understand how the court deals with dividing military pensions.  Not all servicemembers will be entitled to a pension, it does depend on the years of service.  If there is a pension, it will be divided by the time rule which looks at the length of service while married.  The portion that was acquired during marriage wil be split 50/50.

There other assets that are only issues in military divorce that need to be give special care. There is the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) election that needs to be discussed.  SBP needs to be ordered in order to be received and there are different levels of election, not all the elections will be covered by support payments.  There is also the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) that needs to be divide.

There are assets that need to be divided in military divorces that are not present in a non-military divorce.  It is important to understand what you are entitled to and what needs to be included in your divorce judgment.

Residency Requirements

In order for the court to have the ability to properly divide a military pension, the court must have the military spouse’s legal consent, or legal residence within a state. A spouse simply being stationed within a state for a temporary period of time does not constitute residency.  If the military member has maintained residency in a different state, California may not have jurisdiction to divide the military member’s pension.  Consent of the spouse does not have to be verbally expressed, as long as the court has proper jurisdiction it has the ability to divide military retirement, regardless of the overall length of the marriage.

Minella Law Group can Help!

As the article expresses, there are very specific rights involved in a military divorce.  An amicable military dissolution can be reached, but should be done with an experienced attorney who knows what to look for.

If you are facing a divorce and the United Stated Military is an employer, the qualified staff at Minella Law Group can assist you.  For more information or to schedule an appointment for a no cost consultation, click the button below, or call us at 619-289-7948. We look forward to meeting with you!

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