How federal laws apply in cases of military divorce

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Paternity/Child Support on Friday, January 30, 2015.

A divorce proceeding in St. Charles, Missouri, is usually governed by state law; but when one or both of the spouses are serving in the military, then federal law may play a part in determining the impact of a divorce on military pensions.

The men and women who defend our country by serving in the military know that many routine aspects of everyday life in the civilian world can become complicated when active-duty service members are involved. This is particularly true when it comes to divorce.

Federal laws may also be a factor in determining when a divorce action may be commenced, where it can be brought and how military benefits such as medical and commissary will be handled.

Starting a divorce action is simply a matter of filing papers with the court and arranging for service of the summons and complaint on the other spouse. Things are not as easy when one or both spouses are on active duty in the military.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is a federal law that prevents members of the military from being sued for divorce while they are on active duty. The protection continues for 60 days after they are no longer on active duty. The benefits of the SCRA may be waived by the service member.

One aspect of a military divorce that is similar to a divorce between two civilians is how military pensions are handled. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act is a federal law that lets state law govern the property division of pensions. Under federal law, if a couple are married for at least 10 years during which one of them was in the military, a former spouse receiving a share of a military pension will be paid directly by the government. A spouse married for less than 10 years may still receive a share of a military pension, but payment does not come directly from the government.

Someone married for at least 20 years, during which the other party was in the military, could be entitled to medical benefits and access to commissary and exchange privileges as long as the service member-spouse served for at least 20 years.

Divorces where property division involving military benefits is an issue because one or both of the parties are retired military personnel or active-duty service members can be complex. An attorney familiar with military divorce may be of assistance under such circumstances.

Related Posts