Understanding the Military Divorce Process: A Comprehensive Guide
The stress of divorce can be a daunting process, especially if you are a member of the military. There are distinct legal requirements for military divorce compared to civilian divorce. That is why it is important to understand the laws, steps, and other issues that come with the divorce process while in active service. The good news is that there is a step-by-step guide available to make this process as smooth as possible.
Your first step should be to confer with a lawyer who specializes in military law and divorce matters. It's important to understand all of your rights under U.S. law including state or federal laws related to child support, back pay for disability or other retirement benefits, and insurance coverage for dependents after the dissolution of marriage. Once you hire an attorney you will begin by gathering financial information through your Personal Finance Worksheet and bank account statements. You will then discuss arrangements regarding custody, spousal support, and property division if pertinent. Lastly, you will complete any required paperwork needed to pursue the divorce case in court until it is finalized by a judge. Along the way, there may be many obstacles so it's important to keep up with any deadlines, documents, and communication between your lawyer and yourself throughout the entire process for successful completion.What Distinguishes a Military Divorce From a Civilian Divorce?
Military divorces differ greatly from civilian ones. The state laws governing non-military divorces may not apply to military divorces as federal laws, such as the Federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSP), also come into play. These two laws provide additional protections for service members that state laws may not offer. For instance, the SCRA prohibits a default judgment for divorce when a service member has failed to consent to or otherwise participate in the divorce process.
In addition, there are other matters unique to military divorces, such as the division of military benefits and considering the effect deployments might have on child custody or visitation agreements. In situations where one spouse must be deployed, family members should seek legal advice on appropriate procedures to follow before deployment begins. Guidance can result in the proper handling of assets and decisions related to financial support during any interim period prior to formal divorce issues being decided by the court.Obtain Consent
In a military divorce, obtaining consent from the active duty service member is an important step to keeping proceedings civil. The Federal Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003 outlines how a non-military spouse cannot proceed with a default judgment against their active-duty military spouse without their permission, a major difference between civilian and military divorces. In a civilian divorce, if the respondent spouse fails to respond or participate in the proceedings, the petitioner spouse can request a default judgment, resulting in decisions on matters such as custody, support payments, and division of assets and debts.
By contrast, when filed against an active-duty service member, who may be serving abroad or otherwise have difficulty responding in time for the court's deadline, filing for divorce in accordance with SCRA protects them from being subject to any adverse effects caused by failing to answer the petition. Instead of resorting to a default judgment that rarely benefits either spouse involved in the divorce, both parties receive an opportunity to dispute claims made against them and reach equitable settlements in accordance with state law.Ensure That the File is in the Correct State.
When filing for divorce, one of the parties must be a legal resident in that particular state. This proves to be a difficult matter in military families due to frequent relocations across the country and even within international borders. Even when a service member's home is kept as their legal residence per the SCRA rules and regulations, it can still be a challenge to determine which state they should file in.
The non-military spouse may have legal residency claims in their service member spouse's home state, regardless of their current place of residence.
It is important to note that in most states at least one of the parties involved in the divorce must prove legal residency or domicile for at least six months before beginning proceedings. This is an important step to consider prior to filing for divorce and seeking out necessary counseling or other advice on how best to approach such situations.Know Your Rights
For service members and non-military spouses who are in the process of filing for divorce, it is imperative that they know their rights and what benefits they may be entitled to. This can help protect them and ensure a fair outcome during the negotiations. Understanding entitlements such as housing allowances, medical benefits, on-base privileges, retirement/pension plans, and other financial details of the marriage will assist service members in navigating their way through the proceedings.
Service member entitlement benefits depend mainly on location, time served, rank, and the number of dependents. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is based on these factors as well and is counted as part of the service member's income when it comes to calculating spousal or child support. There may also be other perks associated with being part of the military including discounts at certain stores or other establishments. Although divorce isn't always easily attainable even when all parties are in agreement regarding the division of assets and values, having a clear understanding of one's rights as outlined under law helps make sure that both partners enter any arrangement with an equitable opinion guiding each side's decisions.It is Advised to Seek Further Counsel When Necessary.
An experienced divorce lawyer in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, can help you with your divorce case. Contact us today at www.thorntonesquirelawgroup.com for a free consultation.