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Are Military Divorces Handled Differently?


Unlike civilians, those who serve our country go through unique and complex issues when going through a divorce. If you're in a military family, and divorce is looming, familiarizing yourself with the more difficult aspects can help lead you to better decisions and a better outcome for you and your family.

Delaying a Divorce

Generally, the spouse who is "served" with divorce papers has a limited amount of days to formally respond. However, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can change the normal court time schedule and other deadlines if one party is on active duty. An active-duty service member can request to delay the proceedings (called a "stay") or other claims related to alimony, child support and custody, property division and military pension division. Typically, a stay lasts 90 days, but it can be extended if necessary.

Child Custody and Support

Another aspect that is more complex in a military divorce is child custody. If the military spouse has lengthy deployments, it is recommended that a contingency plan be set in place. If there is joint custody, the civilian parent cares for the child whenever the other spouse is deployed. However, if the military spouse has sole custody and is deployed, there is consideration by the court to grant temporary changes of custody to the civilian parent or other family members, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles. As for child support, military parents are required to pay like civilians. However, if they fail to comply, consequences can be more severe and result in them being removed from duty. In addition, support can be modified as the result of deployments.

Dividing the Pension

Service members who retire after at least 20 years of active service are compensated with a retirement pension for the rest of their lives. If a spouse is married to a service member for 10 years or more, they are entitled to half of the pension after a divorce. However, the pension division can be negotiated in several ways; for example, a spouse can ask for half the pension even if they were married for less than 10 years, or the military spouse can ask for more even if they were married for over 10 years.

For help with your military divorce, call (803) 938-4952 to speak to one of our Columbia family law lawyers at Masella Law Firm, P.A. today.

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