Divorce is a complicated and difficult process no matter the specifics. If, however, you are in the military or your soon-to-be ex-spouse is in the military, there are several specific factors you will need to take into consideration when facing the divorce process. These include, but are not limited to, the splitting of military benefits, deciding child custody when one parent may live on a government base or be related to foreign countries at will, and retirement benefits when the spouse who is serving is discharged or retires. These are the same processes that a civilian will be facing during a divorce. It is not necessarily the processes that are different, but the procedure. There are also some additional things a person will need to take into consideration.
One of the factors that may be an issue for you if facing a military divorce occurs if the military spouse is based overseas, or is on active duty in a remote area. Some states have special provisions for military members, including relaxed rules that allow active duty personnel to file for divorce in the state in which the non military spouse resides, even if both souses are not permanently living there.
While retirement plans, income, and shared marital assets will all be considered eligible for the same equitable distribution laws applicable to civilian marriages, there is the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) to take into consideration. This law allows for military pension plans and retirement plans to be treated as marital property, rather than income, as it would normally be treated in a civilian divorce.
For the ex-spouse to be eligible for these payments after the divorce is finalized, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years, and at least 10 of those years must reflect a time period during which one spouse was actively employment by the military. If you are in the military and think you may want to consider divorce at some point in the future, this is a reason to pursue the divorce perhaps sooner than you would otherwise have done so: If, for example, you have been married for 12 years and only nine of them have been while you are on active duty, divorcing before that 10-year mark will preclude your spouse from being eligible for portions of your retirement or pension based on the USFSPA.
If you are considering a military divorce, the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today.