The men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces take on an enormous responsibility. That strain can reach beyond active military duty and impact life with their civilian spouses and children. When marriages break down, soldiers must manage potential deployment, childcare and visitation, retirement resources, and the unique guidelines that come with defending freedom. While divorce presents a difficult challenge and uncertain time for any couple, military personnel face additional hurdles. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced Salt Lake County military divorce attorney who can guide you through the issues you encounter along the way.
Filing for Divorce as a Military Service Member or Spouse
To file for divorce in Utah, one of the parties must have resided in the state for at least six continuous months. Being stationed at a military installation qualifies as state residency. Although deployment can make that requirement difficult on the service member’s part, a civilian spouse can also meet the court’s standard.
The courts generally require that the divorce is filed in the military spouse’s place of residence. This can be where a home is located, a federal tax address, or where voter registration is filed. Military divorces enjoy some flexibility in the courts. The key issue is that a state court has jurisdiction to issue an actionable divorce decree.
Military Child Custody & Support
Deployment may be the single biggest challenge to military service members wishing to spend time with their children. The non-military spouse often assumes child placement and the role of custodial parent when their spouse is deployed. Consistency has long been held to be in a child’s best interest. Reasonable visitation and facilitating the best parent-child bond possible is also fundamental.
In military divorces, courts tend to be more flexible in approving child custody and visitation plans. In some cases, those rights can be transferred to a close family member when the service member is overseas.
In terms of child support, the military has a set of guidelines that can be implemented with regards to child support payments while a divorce is pending. Again, active duty may require a soldier to be out of the state for an extended period of time. A formula is used to calculate benefits that include salary, housing allowances, and non-cash payments. These funds can automatically be garnished from the soldier’s paycheck. The amount may also fluctuate to account for one parent taking on a larger role while the other is deployed. The life of a soldier makes child support, visitation, and custody a comprehensive issue to address in divorce.
Unique Military Privileges
The U.S. military recognizes the difficulties that service places on families and has created specialized privileges for ex-spouses who meet certain criteria. For example, the 20/20/20 rule allows a divorced spouse full access to base commissaries and exchanges if the couple was married for 20 or more years and the military service was also for 20 years or longer. An ex-spouse may enjoy these base privileges until he or she remarries. Similarly, children retain these privileges until they are 23 years old, even if the marriage was less than 20 years.
Divorcees also may retain access to military health care known as Tricare. Sometimes called the 20/20/15 rule, the difference for ex-spouses to be eligible is that only a 15-year overlap is needed. After the divorce is final, a divorced spouse enjoys 12 months of Tricare benefits. However, there may be opportunities to apply for 36 months of coverage in some cases. Children can stay on the program until they turn 23 years old.
Military Retirement Benefits
One of the perks to military service is that after 20 years, you earn a life-long retirement package. Unfortunately, this can pose a complicated issue during a divorce. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act, courts have considerable flexibility in the division of this asset. After 10 years of marriage, a spouse may be entitled to 50% of the pension – but that number is not set in stone. A court could award the non-service member a greater portion.
Other assets to consider include:
- Survivor’s Benefit Plan
- Thrift Saving Plan
- Servicemembers Group Life Insurance
Schedule a Consultation with Eric M. Swinyard & Associates, PLLC
Filing for divorce while a spouse is in the military can be an immensely complicated process. The smallest details can have a significant impact on a fair and equitable divorce decree. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced military divorce attorney in Salt Lake County or Utah County.
ExperiencedThe right attorney makes all the difference. Our attorneys are experienced, transparent and dedicated to your goals.
30-Min ConsultationWe understand that you have questions, our Firm will provide you with a 30-minute no-obligation consultation with an Attorney.
PreparationFamily Law matters are complex; we ensure that all of our clients are thoroughly educated and prepared along the way.
Personalized ApproachNo two cases are the same. Our Approach is tailored specifically to your goals.
We offer the results-driven counsel you are seeking, serving clients with poise and
compassion every step of the way. Call (801) 515-4133 now or complete the form below
to get started with a consultation.