A divorce is never easy, but it can be particularly more complex for those in the military. Going through a divorce is certainly one of the most serious life-changing events for spouses as well as their children. There are many issues that must be settled as part of the divorce including complicated issues regarding finances and children. There are additional concerns for members of the military. Some of the issues that make things more difficult include active duty and deployment away from home and the distribution of military benefits and pensions.Issues in a Military Divorce
When you are going through a divorce, you face a number of issues including child custody and support, distribution of assets, and spousal maintenance. For members of the military, these issues can be more complex. The military requires you to be deployed to areas that might be far from home. As a result, the spouse is often the primary caregiver during these times. In situations such as these, the spouse may be unemployed outside the home or may be underemployed. This could make the service member responsible for spousal maintenance.
Generally, state laws govern divorce; however, in a military divorce, federal laws are also to be considered. Federal law governs how military retirement pay is to be distributed and to which benefits the non-military spouse will be entitled. In order to seek a divorce in North Carolina, the requirements for filing a divorce must be met. At least one party must have been a resident of North Carolina for a period of six months or must be stationed or have US. Government orders to live in the state.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is a federal law that regulates military divorce in the United States. It is designed to protect military spouses when considering military pay in a divorce. In addition to military pay, the law allows for direct payment of retirement pay if it was awarded in a divorce order. It also provides for spouses to keep their military health care and other military privileges in some instances.Child Custody and Visitation
Child custody and visitation issues are important in all divorces, but can be particularly crucial when one parent is a member of the military. In general, the same guidelines apply to members of the military as to others. Child custody and visitation should be established in the best interest of the child. Parents need to come to a decision on the child’s primary residence as well as a schedule for visitation for the non-custodial parent. Military parents must pay special attention to the parenting agreement in order to ensure that both parents are allowed adequate time with their children.
Of particular concern are times when the parent is deployed and is unavailable for visitation. The agreement should provide guidelines for how to handle visitation once the parent returns. The schedule can be as specific as necessary and will help to create a smoother transition for the child and for the entire family.
Another consideration that should be included in the agreement is how to handle visitation when a parent is stationed in another state or country. The agreement should provide for handling transportation costs as well as details for which parent is responsible for getting the child to their destination.
Courts are generally more flexible when it comes to parental agreements in military families. You may be allowed to assign visitation to another close relative of the parent when it is in the best interest of the child. For example, the child’s grandparent may be assigned to pick up a child from school or provide care on certain days of the week.Family Support Arrangements
The military branches each have policies in place that require military members to pay for family support. This arrangement is designed to ensure that military families are properly cared for during the transition period of the divorce. The military policies apply only for an interim period when a court order is not in place.
Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance, must be ordered by the court. Once in place the order must be sent to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) from the court that directs the government to pay support or alimony directly from a military member’s salary. This is considered a garnishment order. It is important to note that the total payments provided for child and spousal support cannot be more than 60% of the military member’s pay.
Military divorce can be complicated. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC we have many years of experience handling all types of divorce and custody cases in Mooresville. Contact our office today at Arnold & Smith, PLLC to schedule a case consultation.