Divorce can be a complicated process for many families, but it becomes even more challenging when one or both spouses is a member of the armed services. The rights and responsibilities of service members differ from those of civilians in terms of pension and asset ownership, child custody and visitation, and spousal support. The experienced South Jersey military divorce lawyers at Adinolfi & Packman are here to help military families navigate these complexities to reach a resolution that is best for them.
Filing for Divorce
Depending on where a service member is stationed, there may be a question of where to file for divorce. Spouses may be residing in separate states, but the divorce must be filed in a court that has jurisdiction over both spouses. Most often, the divorce is filed in the state where the military member is domiciled or resides. A service member’s domicile is not necessarily the state they lived in when they joined the military or the state in which the marriage took place, but the state in which the service member has a permanent residence.
Division of Property and Pensions
In a military divorce, most property is divided by the same equitable distribution laws as in a civilian divorce. Service members are technically employees of the military and receive a number of employment benefits, including retirement benefits and life insurance. These accounts are subject to the property division rules of the state in which the divorce is filed, but they are also governed by a unique set of military regulations. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) dictates that civilian spouses in marriages lasting 10 or more years, coinciding with at least 10 years of military service, will receive direct payment of their share of a military pension. Spouses in marriages lasting less than 10 years, however, may also recover a portion of pensions and other retirement benefits under the law.
Child and Spousal Support
As in a civilian divorce, service members are legally obligated to support their children, as well as provide spousal support when applicable. The amount of support is determined by the requirements of the state. To accurately determine the amount of child support and/or spousal support, accurate income information is needed for both spouses, including base pay and any allowances the service member may receive.
Child Custody and Visitation
Military members face a number of issues that make child custody and visitation orders more complicated than in most situations. Service members may not know where their next deployment will take them or when they will be required to move. In order for spouses to share parenting responsibilities, they may need to have multiple parenting plans for different scenarios. For situations in which the service member is the primary caregiver or both spouses are in the military, service members must provide a Family Care Plan to their commanding officer, outlining the logistics of who will provide care and how the child will be supported.