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Divorce in Military Families: Is It Different?

Being based in Fort Lauderdale, we frequently get questions about divorce from members of military families. Many remark that, although divorce is frequently difficult for everyone who goes through it, it can sometimes be even more difficult and complicated for military families due to the ramifications associated with relocation issues and the custody implications that come with them; not to mention other issues, such as property division and benefits. Not only is the divorce process itself often more complicated, but the strain that spending long periods of time apart can take on the relationship arguably sometimes leads to the divorce in the first place.

It can be especially helpful for members of military families that are seeking advice on divorce to speak with an attorney in their locality who is specifically experienced in providing divorce counsel to military members precisely because they are aware that these issues can present headaches before the process even begins. While divorce is largely governed by state law, there are also federal laws that may be applicable.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

This particular federal law allows for active-duty members to postpone a court or administrative proceeding if military service has prevented them from protecting a legal right if a judge finds that there is good cause; in other words, did active duty prevent the service member from defending an action in court? If so, the court must grant a stay.

Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act

Service members who spend at least 20 years of active service are compensated with a permanent retirement pension. This federal law provides specific benefits to former spouses of military members, such as retirement and medical benefits. Specifically, military pensions are treated as marital property that can be divided, and spouses are entitled to half of the pension if they were married to the service member for at least 10 years. If the couple was married for less than 10 years, they can still request half of the pension, as this is negotiable. If the state court decides to provide more than half, or if the couple was married for less than 10 years, direct payments typically become the responsibility of the retiree to the ex spouse. Regardless, it is important for you and your ex to be aware of how much the pension is actually worth if there is any consideration of negotiating some of it in exchange for something else.

Depending upon the specific circumstances–where some military spouses were unable to work due to the unique nature of being a part of a military family–they were also unable to pay into their own retirement accounts. This necessitates a certain amount of negotiation when it comes to military retirement pensions and savings plans. It is also important to note that, as a spouse, it is impossible to obtain retirement pay until the retiree actually applies for it, thus it behooves you to include specific deadlines in the divorce decree, mandating that your service member ex apply for benefits by a specific date.

Contact Us during Divorce

If you are dealing with divorce and you live in Fort Lauderdale or surrounding areas, contact the office of Sandra Bonfiglio today to obtain advice. Let us provide you with peace of mind during this difficult time.

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