Military service can put a unique strain on a marriage. It often involves long deployments, a good deal of uncertainty, constant change, and the threat of losing a spouse in combat. Simply put, military life doesn’t always work for every marriage. And whether it results from the strain of the lifestyle or from reasons that are common in civilian life like incompatibility or infidelity, members of the military and their spouses are not immune to divorce.
However, just as there are many unique aspects of the lifestyle of a military family, there are also several unique considerations when it comes to a military divorce.
Military service carries with it numerous benefits which both the service member and his or her spouse are entitled to, including things like health care, pensions, and the privilege to use on-base facilities like the commissary or theater.
Just as certain employment benefits of one spouse may continue to be shared with the other in a civilian divorce, a non-service member spouse may be entitled to the unique military benefits of his or her spouse in a military divorce. For spouses of military service members, there is a rule governing military benefits in a divorce called the 20/20/20 rule. This rule states that, if one spouse has been an active duty service member for 20 years, and the couple has been married for 20 years, and the 20 years of marriage overlapped with the military service, then the nonmilitary spouse will be entitled to the same full benefits as his or her military spouse.
If the nonmilitary spouse remarries, however, these benefits will be lost. Additionally, states have the right to choose whether a nonmilitary spouse is entitled to a share of their ex’s military pension when he or she retires.
There are many complicating factors to a military divorce, but when there are children involved things can get even more complex. As with the spousal benefits we just talked about, special consideration for unique aspects of military pay and benefits must be taken in a military divorce when it comes to calculating child support. Furthermore, the nature of active duty military service means uncertainty in where the military parent will be located, which has a major impact on child custody. Certainly, divorcing couples and courts need to find some creative custody solutions when one parent is going to be deployed overseas for months at a time, or could be transferred to a base across the country at any time.
In a civilian divorce, certain procedures must be followed with regard to the timeliness of responding to a request for a divorce and moving forth with the proceedings. In a military divorce, however, the divorce can be postponed by law for an active duty spouse. The postponement can last for the period of time in which the service member is on duty, and up to 60 days following that.
Modifications of divorce terms are not unique to the military, but due to the nature of military life, it is probable that the circumstances surrounding your original divorce agreement could change. Deployments and transfers may greatly affect a parent’s pay and availability for custody or visitation of children, but generally, once a divorce agreement is finalized it can only be changed in court. Military life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and so too should you expect the unexpected in a military divorce and be prepared for the need to change your divorce agreements often.
Florida Women's Law Group understands the unique challenges of military divorces. Give us a call and let us provide you with an effective, sensitive, and compassionate approach to helping you move on to the next phase of your life following your military divorce.