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How divorce in military families is different

Most people generally understand that specific divorce topics may apply to their situation, including how to file for divorce, child custody arrangements, alimony, fair division of assets and other common issues.

The process of obtaining a military divorce, on the other hand, is often uncharted territory for military families. They may know that their base provides legal advice, but they are not sure whether they also need off-base resources.

Does the military provide legal assistance?

Each branch of military personnel retains military attorneys on base to discuss general divorce options and provide helpful information; however, only a civilian attorney can represent a service member or nonmember spouse in divorce proceedings.

Service members will need civilian representation by a firm experienced in the unique legal requirements and issues that affect military divorces.

Why is outside knowledge critical in military divorce?

Civilian specialists use their expertise in military divorce law to ensure a divorce follows correct procedures and results in the best outcome for their clients. Many choices made in military divorce cases can have long-term effects for good or ill, depending on the filing member's needs. These areas mostly fall into a few basic categories: divorce strategy, taxes, child support and asset division.

  • In military divorce strategy, the filing spouse should understand and use the best approaches possible. For example, a military member on active duty can submit a written request to delay a divorce; alternatively, if the member is facing a long-distance deployment, expediting the divorce beforehand may be the best option.
  • In military divorce taxes, an attorney will counsel a military service client to make sure family taxes are in order when considering divorce. Most military bases offer free tax assistance. 
  • In military divorce child support, the military requires service members to pay or they will be penalized. Competent legal counsel can educate the court about the service member's military pay structure for garnishment proceedings. The service member will need to contact the base attorney before a child support amount is court-ordered to find out how to apply for a wage garnishment through the military's pay system.
  • In military divorce asset division, the person filing for divorce must discover how to capture equitable assets, such as an appropriate share in health coverage, military pensions, survivor benefits or thrift savings plans.

The service member and non-service member spouse have a daunting task ahead of them in covering all of the laws and procedures involved in a military divorce. They should start early to collect information from base resources and understand the difference between civil and military functions in a divorce proceeding.

 

 

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