Getting divorced is typically a very stressful and uncertain time for couples. While the legal proceedings for a divorce of someone in the military are no different than a normal divorce case, there are special considerations noted in the Uniformed Services Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) that might impact the procedures, including:
Length of time – If the divorce involves an individual who is on active duty or overseas, the process can take much longer than a typical case.
Retirement and pensions – According to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), an ex-spouse will only receive retirement payments directly from DFAS if the couple has been married for at least ten years and has ten years of overlapping service. This is commonly known as the “10/10 Rule.” There are significant misconceptions as to what this means to both active/retired military members and their dependents. Additionally, depending upon the state in which you reside, there might be a different date of division that could impact how the amount of time you have been married is defined. The USFSPA allows for State court of competent jurisdiction to divide military retired pay regardless of duration of the marriage or years that the marriage overlapped with military service. It is important that you have an attorney who understands this distinction if you are going through a military divorce.
Child support – While child support in a divorce is determined by the State, each branch of the service, except the Air Force, has specific rules regarding how much support a parent should pay. The State court has the final say, but it is important to communicate the intricacies of a service member’s pay and the fact that payment amounts can change if they are deployed.
Base privileges – Items such as commissary, exchange and theater privileges are determined by the 20/20/20 rule. This means that you have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 20 years. Your ex-spouse was a member of the military for 20 or more years and the time served and time married overlap by at least 20 years. If all three of these items are true, you are entitled to full base privileges until you remarry.
Health care – Military health care, or TRICARE, is also determined by the 20/20/20 rule for full coverage. If you do not qualify under this rule, there is transitional coverage available under a 20/20/15 rule. You are eligible for this supplemental care for up to 12 months after your divorce unless you remarry.
Because of the intricacies of a military divorce, it is best handled by a legal professional who specializes in this type of family law. If you or someone you know is considering a divorce and is serving in the military, contact attorney, Mathew Midgett. The Law Office of Matthew G. Midgett serves families in Savannah, Georgia and the surrounding community with compassionate and trusted legal advice.