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Know your rights when you’re divorcing someone in the military

If you’re married to someone in the military and you’re contemplating divorce (or your spouse is), it’s essential to know your legal rights and what benefits you and your children are entitled to receive.

Military retired pay is an important factor. Many people believe that a military spouse can only receive a portion of that money if the couple was married for 10 years or more. That is the minimum for a former spouse to receive direct payments from the Department of Defense, and the servicemember must have been in the military for those 10 years.

However, state courts can rule that a spouse is entitled to receive a portion of that pay as part of the divorce settlement. It is considered marital or community property. States received that right under the federal Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act back in 1982.

Disability pay is another matter. That’s not an asset that is considered when property is divided between the spouses. However, if a servicemember does not pay the alimony or child support he or she is ordered to pay, those funds may be taken out of that disability pay. That’s known as garnishment.

Medical benefits are often a big concern for military spouses going through a divorce. Those require a longer period of marriage. If the couple was married for at least 20 years and the servicemember was in the military for at least 15 of those years, the spouse can continue to receive medical benefits for a year if he or she doesn’t have employer-sponsored insurance and doesn’t remarry during that period.

Where the divorce case is heard can make a significant difference to the financial outcome since each state has its own laws surrounding the division of retired pay. Many servicemembers are stationed here in Nevada, but claim other states as their legal domicile, and vice versa. If someone is legally domiciled in Nevada, but is stationed in California, for example, the case can’t be heard in California without that servicemember’s consent.

These are just a few of the unique elements of a military divorce. That’s why it’s essential to have the guidance of an attorney with experience handling this type of divorce.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, “Important facts to know about divorce in the military,” Sep. 08, 2016

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