What You Should Know About Military Divorces

Military life is hard on those who are deployed—and their families—and it’s an unfortunate reality that marriages between military members are more likely to end in divorce. Military divorces are common, but they are also complex, especially for members deployed overseas. Here, we’ll give military members and their spouses a better understanding of the dissolution process.

Can Divorces Be Started During Deployment?

If a person is deployed in another country, it may be difficult to serve them with a summons and divorce papers. Without the service member’s consent, divorce proceedings can’t be started, which means the matter will likely have to wait until deployment ends.

Knowing where a service member is raises multiple privacy and security concerns that may put an entire unit or operation at risk. Overseas process service requires that the other country’s government be a Hague Convention signatory, which is rare in places where our troops are currently deployed.

Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

When a state has subject-matter jurisdiction, it has the legal authority to hear a case. State laws vary, and when military spouses seek divorces, they must refer to their state’s residency laws. In some states, service members can file for divorce even if they’re not a permanent resident. In Alabama, however, if the defendant isn’t a state resident, the person filing must have lived in the state for at least six months beforehand.

For military spouses, setting up Alabama residency is easy. They don’t move around as often as service members do, and they tend to establish roots by living off base, getting driver’s licenses, opening bank accounts, and getting jobs. It’s a bit tougher for military members, as they’re often moving from one place to another, and their residency doesn’t change unless they take steps to make it official.

The Civil Relief Act

If you’re in the military and have received divorce papers from your spouse, you only have a certain length of time to file a response. Those on active duty, however, may request a stay so they can focus on the job at hand without worrying about receiving a default judgment.

Known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, this rule stops divorce proceedings until 90 days after the member’s duty has concluded. Many military members elect to get things started before returning home, and they can hire Alabama divorce attorneys to represent and protect their interests.

Spousal Support During Military Divorces

Military spouses may get spousal support from service members if they’re entitled to it by military or state law. Each branch of the armed forces—the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy—has rules requiring members to support their families during separation periods.

Furthermore, spouses may be able to receive support under Alabama law if their income is substantially less than that of the service member. Military retirement, pay, and VA benefits can be garnished to pay spousal support.

Child Support for Military Families

Child support amounts during military divorces are set by Alabama law and are typically based on entitlements like BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing), base pay, and other payments. Once child support is set by the state’s courts, the only way to change the amount is to get the other party’s written consent or to take the matter back to court.

In most instances, the state will order the direct payment of child support. If a military member receives this order, known as a wage assignment, they must give it to the military’s pay center, which is known as the DFAS or Defense Finance and Accounting Services, in a prompt manner. These orders must meet strict criteria, or they won’t be granted. Consult the nearest JAG or divorce lawyer to learn more about wage assignments.

Military Pensions

Handling military pensions can be very tricky. In some instances, courts give non-military spouses whatever share they consider fair. These pensions work under the 10-10 rule, which provides for garnishment during property division. Under the 10-10 rule, the DFAS splits the check and sends each party the correct amount.

For a spouse to receive a share of a service member’s pension, the marriage must have lasted at least ten years during active duty. In shorter marriages, the court will still order the division of the pension, but the service member will make the payments directly to the other spouse.

To get a check from the military payment center, a spouse needs a court order that:

  • Includes the names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of both parties
  • Specifies that the DFAS will make all payments
  • Lists the percentage to be paid
  • Includes a submission to the payment center with DD Form 293 and a copy of the divorce decree
  • Follows all DFAS rules
  • Spouses should submit these papers immediately after the matter is finalized so that, if there are problems, an attorney can catch them in time.

Post-Divorce Healthcare Coverage

Non-military spouses may be eligible for two distinct types of healthcare coverage:

  • TRICARE coverage is the first choice. It goes into effect when couples are married for at least 20 years during the service member’s enlistment period. It’s known as the 20/20/20 rule, and many spouses wait to file until the requirement is met. Lifetime coverage requires the former spouse to stay unmarried; if they get married again, they lose TRICARE forever.
  • The Continued Healthcare Benefit Program is available to non-military spouses who aren’t TRICARE-eligible. It supplies up to three years of coverage after a divorce, but spouses can get indefinite coverage if they’re eligible for a share of the service member’s pension, do not remarry before the age of 55, pay premiums by the quarter and in advance, and apply in time.

Military Divorce Attorneys Offer Help and Advice When It’s Needed Most

When military marriages end in divorce, it is important for members and their spouses to learn about the complex legal issues that affect these cases. If you’re going through a military divorce and need advice, the Hankey Law Firm can provide it. Get more information by texting us or calling today to schedule a no-obligation consultation with an Alabama divorce attorney.