Military Divorce & Military Spouse Benefits Forms
How a Military Spouse Affects a Divorce
Although joining the military can provide several benefits, a happy and healthy marriage is not always one of them. In 2011, the military separation rate and military divorce rate both reached their highest levels since 1999. USA Today reports that over 30,000 members of the armed forces filed for an army divorce in 2011.
According to experts in family law, military spouse divorce is basically the same as civilian divorce. Only a few military divorce laws exist, and current divorce law applies to civilians and military personnel alike. However, a few special considerations must be made by anyone who wishes to divorce military spouse.
Beginning a Military Divorce
After the initial paperwork is filed, it is necessary to serve the divorce papers to the spouse, but serving divorce papers to personnel stationed overseas can be problematic. Some states allow the papers to be served through certified mail to a registered APO/FPO address, but other states require in-person service.
Child Support and Military Spouse Benefits
The amount of child support paid in military divorces is determined by state law, but it is often easier to collect from service members than from civilians because all of the armed forces except the Air Force have rules regarding the minimum amount service members must pay to support their children, whether they are married or not. In most cases, child support is paid through a wage assignment that comes directly out of the member's paycheck.
Other military spouse benefits must also be considered, including health insurance and any existing survivor benefit plan (SBP). An SBP is a type of life insurance that continues to provide a military spouse with an income even after the military member's death. Many courts require military personnel to purchase an SBP upon divorce, and the benefits carry over to the former spouse after the divorce is final.
Military Retirement and Divorce
Military retirement divorce issues are among the most confusing issues when going through divorce in the military. A law known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) governs how a military pension is handled in a divorce. The USFSPA also covers other issues involving divorce and military retirement, such as health benefits.
One of the primary benefits provided by the USFSPA for a military spouse is the payment of a portion of military retirement benefits by the divorced service member. However, determining the instances when a spouse is entitled to benefits and how much should be paid may require the assistance of a military attorney. The greatest retirement benefits are available from service members who have been on active duty at least 20 years and for spouses who have been married to them for the full 20 years, but other benefits may be available for spouses who have only been married to military personnel for 15 years or less.