Being married to a member of the U.S. military is wrought with challenges. For some couples, the deployments, sacrifices, new family dynamic, and life on a military base can make their relationship stronger. Unfortunately for others, these difficulties can result in a breakdown of a couple’s marriage.
If you and your ex consider yourselves a military family, the separation and divorce procedures won’t be as straightforward as they can be for a civilian couple. Ricklin & Associates offers the following considerations:
Where to File
For most couples going through a divorce, the filing part of the process is simple. If you or your ex hold residency in California, you’ll file for a divorce in California.
But if the separating couple happens to be a military family, filing for divorce can get a little more complicated. A military family may move to different bases around the country, one spouse may be deployed to another location, or both parties may not have established a long enough residency in a state to file for divorce there.
In these cases, the divorce must be filed in the state where the spouse is stationed or where one spouse is a resident. If you are not yet a legal resident of the state where you wish to file, you may need to wait. Your attorney can help you sort through the details of the filing process.
For civilian couples, the non-filing party will receive a summons for a divorce that he or she must respond to within a certain timeframe, lest the result be an uncontested divorce.
But matters grow more complex if one spouse is on active duty. While it will be easier to file for divorce when both parties are in the same location, some couples choose not to wait this long.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects active duty military members from common issues such as evictions, income tax payments, foreclosures, and civil court proceedings while they are deployed. This allows service members to postpone responding to divorce summons until after they return from active duty.
You may wonder how military benefits fit into the equation. The Uniformed Service’s Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal law that is used to calculate how military benefits (such as pensions, health/medical coverage, and commissary benefits) are divided between military members and their ex-spouses. The length of the divorcing couple’s marriage and length of military service may be taken into account.
Under USFSPA, an ex-military spouse isn’t automatically entitled to benefits that belong to the military spouse. USFSPA does, however, work through tax issues and various factors that may determine how property should be divided and, if applicable, how spousal or child support will be set. Further details on laws regarding the division of disposable military pay/benefits can be found here.
If you’re unsure about whether or not a divorce is what’s best for you and your spouse, take a step back to re-evaluate where the relationship went wrong and what changes you might be able to make to improve the marriage.
You can work with a counselor or marriage therapist to identify areas where you can grow and find practices that will help you be better together. Many military couples separate or divorce due to the strain of one spouse being away for the majority of their relationship.
Although this can make working on your relationship more challenging than it may be for a civilian couple, your counselor should be able to provide you with practices to improve your relationship, even when you’re not able to be physically close together.
The divorce process is a multi-step process that involves many details and considerations. Your future will be greatly impacted by the outcome of your negotiations, mediation or litigation. Ricklin & Associates in Westlake Village is here to guide you through your separation or divorce and answer your questions along the way.
Ricklin & Associates
2625 Townsgate Road
Westlake Village, CA 91361