Military personnel and their spouses deal with marital strife just like everyone else. In fact, being in the armed services can place additional stress on a marriage. Long-term deployments requiring spouses to spend considerable time apart can aggravate an already-fragile relationship. In addition, the stresses of being in a combat theater can follow a soldier home. That too can vex a marriage that is already in crisis.
Military divorces differ slightly from those filed for civilians. Issues involving spousal support, pension rights, and other factors are handled differently. In this article, we’ll take a close look at these issues. If you or your spouse are in the armed services and considering ending your marriage, it is important to consult a divorce attorney who has experience helping military personnel.
Child Support And Spousal Support
Individuals serving in the armed forces are expected to provide sufficient financial support to ensure their children’s needs are met. There are unique elements to how the military treats a service member’s failure to pay support. If an individual fails to pay, he or she can potentially be kicked out of the military.
The amount of child support paid by a service member is based on his (or her) income. The problem is, that income is sometimes difficult to calculate. Unlike civilians, who typically receive a paycheck every week or two, a service member’s pay can involve a number of disparate items.
For example, an individual may receive extra pay for going on hazardous missions. He or she might also receive certain allowances, such as those for housing, food, and clothing. None of these allowances are taxed by the IRS. They must be taken into account when calculating how much support should be paid.
Spousal support is influenced by the same issues. As with civilians, those in the military are expected to provide some level of spousal maintenance. The military lifestyle – i.e. one spouse going on long-term deployments while the other stays home with the couple’s children – often precludes the latter from working full-time. As a result, alimony is usually included in the settlement.
Because of the complexity surrounding child support and spousal maintenance for military personnel, it is advisable to discuss your divorce with an attorney. An experienced attorney can offer advice and make sure that you avoid penalties and other consequences that can arise in a military divorce.
Pensions And Retirement Pay After A Military Divorce
Once an individual has been in the military for 20 years, he or she becomes eligible to receive a pension. The amount is based on the person’s pay grade and number of years served. It is paid to the retired individual for the rest of his or her life.
Divorced spouses of service members are often entitled to receive a portion of their spouses’ pensions. The requirement is that they were married for at least 10 years while their husbands or wives were serving in the military. For example, suppose a couple was married for 15 years and one of the spouses served in the armed forces for 5 years during their marriage. In this case, the ex-spouse would not be eligible to receive a portion of the other party’s retirement pay.
It’s also worth noting that an ex-spouse of a service member is only entitled to a maximum of 50% of the service member’s pension.
Military Disability Pay After Getting Divorced
Military personnel may be eligible to receive disability pay if they were discharged for reasons other than a dishonorable discharge. One of the requirements is that the individual is at least 10% disabled as a result of an incident related to his or her active duty. He or she can receive up to $3,100 each month.
This is important to consider in the context of divorce for 2 reasons. First, an ex-spouse is not entitled to receive a portion of the service member’s disability pay. Second, the service member may elect to forgo his or her retirement pay in lieu of disability pay. Doing so would, in effect, prevent his or her ex-spouse from receiving benefits. The amount of money at stake over a lifetime of payments is substantial.
As noted earlier, the advice of an attorney who has experience in handling military divorces can be invaluable. The most important thing to remember is that divorce for military personnel involves unique and complex issues. Make sure you have a clear grasp of them before you file for divorce.