Divorces where one or both parties are in the military present some unique challenges. Though the laws and procedures largely overlap with those that apply in civilian divorces, some distinct issues often arise in military divorces. These include dealing with deployments within the U.S. or overseas, filing or residency requirements, and how military benefits are affected or divided.
The Importance Of Military Pensions
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal statute providing guidance on issues such as spousal support, child support and the division of military pension plans and retirement pay. The USFSPA permits states to treat military pensions as property rather than income. Division of this property with direct payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service applies if you and your spouse have been married at least 10 years or if your marriage overlaps with the term of military service. An ex-spouse is entitled to a maximum of 50 percent of the military member’s retirement pay. If you do not meet these criteria, you will not receive direct payments from DFAS, but you can still include an order to apportion retirement payments in your divorce order as negotiated between you and your spouse. Your divorce lawyer is instrumental in this process.
There are various other military benefits that must be addressed in a military divorce, including the following:
- Survivor Benefit Plan – If you are a beneficiary on your spouse’s Survivor Benefit Plan, retaining that status after divorce is not a given. You and your attorney will need to address this when working through your divorce agreements.
- Base Privileges – As a long-term military spouse, you may still be able to access military base privileges, such as shopping at the commissary and the post exchange if you were married at least 20 years and your spouse was a service member during those 20 years. Remarriage terminates these privileges.
- TRICARE – You must meet the same criteria for TRICARE as you do for base privileges – the 20/20/20 rule. Lesser criteria may make you eligible for transitional coverage.
These are only a few of the special considerations that must be taken into account when your divorce involves a military member. Child support and custody issues need special attention when the military parent is frequently away, and filing while deployed has its own challenges as well.
These special circumstances necessitate the service and legal counsel of a skilled divorce lawyer with extensive experience handling the complexities of a military divorce in Tennessee.