When divorcing a servicemember, there are unique challenges that can be stressful and need careful consideration before, during and after divorce proceedings. Here are some frequently asked questions to consider as you move through the divorce process with your military spouse.
How Does My Military Divorce Differ From A Civilian Divorce?
Military divorces are different because deployments and temporary duty assignments have the potential to affect child custody considerations, if they apply. When active members of the military, or their spouses, file for a divorce, they are subject to special and unique circumstances that civilians don’t typically have to deal with such as
Where the divorce can be filed
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA)
Texas courts also allow the postponing of divorce proceedings until the end of a service member's active duty, no matter how long it is. Military members also have up to 60 days after their active duty to respond to a divorce claim, rather than the usual 20 days a civilian would have to respond.
We've Moved Several Times, What State Would I File For Divorce In?
Military families typically move every 2 to 3 years and the constant moving can cause some confusion on where exactly to file for divorce. In order to proceed with a military divorce in Texas, either the active duty member or their spouse must have been a resident of Texas for at least six months and a resident of their county for three or more months. The active duty service member must be stationed in Texas for these residency requirements to apply. If the active duty service member is deployed or stationed in a different state, then the process may require filing in a different state.
How Long Does A Military Divorce Typically Take?
Military divorces are often complicated by the requirements of individuals who are on active duty. Active duty personnel can seek delays in divorce proceedings when their military obligations prevent them from making court appearances.
The timeline can also be affected by the unique nature of your divorce, including whether you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce or not. In Texas, an uncontested divorce could be resolved within 60 days, but contested divorces can often take several months and maybe years in some cases.
What Will I Be Entitled To In My Divorce From A Military Servicemember?
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) specifically protects former military spouse's rights after their divorce. It determines the portion of a service member retirement pay that the other spouse will receive. Military spouse entitlements also include healthcare benefits.
However, The USFSPA does not automatically entitle a former spouse to a portion of the member's retired pay. A former spouse must have been awarded a portion of a member's military retired pay as property in their final divorce order.
What's The Difference Between The 20/20/20 And 20/20/15 Rules?
In order to qualify for continued benefits after a divorce, a former spouse must show that the service member completed at least 20 years of creditable service, the marriage lasted at least 20 years and that the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by at least 20 years. When a former spouse meets all of these requirements, it is knows as the 20/20/20 rule and the former spouse is entitled to full benefits.
The 20/20/15 rule, on the other hand, applies when the servicemember served 20 years of creditable service, the marriage lasted 20 years, but the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by only 15 years. The former spouse is entitled to full military medical benefits only for a transitional period of one year following the divorce.
Will Child Support And Custody Be Affected By A Military Divorce?
Federal law authorizes allotments from active-duty military pay in order to satisfy child support and alimony obligations. Allotments cannot exceed 50 percent of a member's pay and allowances if the member is supporting a second family. If the member is not supporting a second family, the allotment may not exceed 60 percent of their pay.
As a divorcing parent, you should work out a parenting plan with your spouse describing how each of you will share your time with them and who will be their primary caregiver after the divorce. If you or your spouse are in the military and are uncertain about where you, or they, will be deployed or stationed in the future, it's practical for the two of you to develop alternate parenting plans such as placing the children with grandparents upon deployment.
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