If you are a military service member or married to one, you’re likely facing some difficult decisions if divorce is on the table. You may think legal counsel isn’t necessary, but you may also wonder who will protect your rights. We recommend you speak to military divorce lawyers in Oklahoma City who are familiar with the processes that distinguish these divorces from those of civilians; they’ll also provide the guidance you need right when you need it.
9 Reasons to Hire Experienced Military Divorce Lawyers
1. Provides Answers to Your Questions
Divorce is rarely straightforward and often makes for a time of high emotions and unchecked stress. The added complexity of navigating military rules and regulations can make this process feel overwhelming. But military divorce lawyers can arbitrate your case as impartial persons without the emotions that typically burden spouses.
They’ll also answer the many questions you’re bound to have, including:
- How does divorce proceed if one spouse is on active duty?
- How are shared property and assets fairly divided?
- How is child custody settled if a spouse is on duty out of state or abroad?
Put Your Fears to Rest
An Oklahoma City attorney familiar with military regulations can assuage your fears and provide the crucial information you need. In short, he or she will walk you through the unique challenges a military divorce presents and give you guidance on your rights and interests in an Oklahoma military divorce based on years of experience with the issues unique to military divorce.
2. Understands Military Divorces Are Different
U.S. military members and their spouses must follow different divorce regulations than civilians. For instance, a service member on active duty is exempt from “default” divorce – a failure to respond to the divorce action.
Normally, a person served with legal papers is required to respond in some way, such as appear in court or filing an Answer and Counter-Petition to divorce and failing to do so can lead to serious consequences, including a default divorce being entered against you without your input into the specific ruling of the court on important issues in your divorce. In a divorce proceeding, the person who filed can ask for a default judgment that essentially provides them with what they originally requested.
The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
But the SCRA preserves the legal rights of those on active duty. This Act recognizes that some active service members cannot respond to a divorce petition within a specific window of time; this entitles these service members to:
- A divorce postponement if active duty keeps them from attending court proceedings
- Specific protections against default judgments when they are unable to respond to legal documents or appear in court
3. Ensures Fair Property Division
Proper division of financial assets is one of the most challenging aspects of a military divorce. Spouses of service members are generally entitled to half of that member’s disposable retired military pay that was acquired during the course of marriage.
But the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) exempts former spouses to any portion of the service member’s pay, including disability pay and combat-related compensation. A military divorce lawyer familiar with these differences will help the divorce move fairly and swiftly, while helping you identify and protect your interests.
4. Dispels Military Divorce Myths
The above point brings us to our next; many people wrongly believe in a military pension – a money account held in the service member’s name that will become available when he or she retires. Instead, a person who retires from the military receives “retired pay.”
Congress votes on an annual budget that includes pay for military retirees. Each retiree receives that pay as long as he or she is alive. Once that person dies, the right to be paid also ends. In other words, no retirement account is available to heirs, and not understanding the fundamental difference between pensions and retired pay can cost you significant money.
What Military Spouses Are Entitled To in Military Divorce
Some people wholeheartedly believe a spouse married to a service member for 10 years is entitled to half of his or her military pension. This is not true: no federal law states that after 10 years, a spouse is entitled to half of a service member’s retirement pay. The law, known as the Former Spouses Protection Act (10 USC 1408), states retirement pay is divided according to the laws of that state granting the divorce. Oklahoma grants the non-service member spouse a portion of this interest; however, it is far more complicated than diving each asset in half.
5. Knows How Custody and Child Support Arrangements Are Handled
Military divorces arrange child support, visitation, and child custody in the “best interest of the child,” which is the same standard used in civilian divorces. Custody and visitation arrangements, however, become complicated because service members may be required for duty at any time or may need to move to another state or country for military service.
The military divorce agreements or divorce decree must therefore account for these unique circumstances. Common provisions might include:
- Phone call dates and times for children and service member parents
- Extra time for service members to spend with children when they are home on breaks
- Custodial rights for the service member’s parents while the service member is on active duty
- Annual determination of visitation schedules based on consideration of military orders, annual training, and/or the service member’s training schedule.
6. Can Calculate Retirement Pay
Many divorce attorneys believe military retirement pay is calculated on years, but this is incorrect. Instead, it’s based on a point system that’s far from simple in nature. Without explaining this system in great detail here, please visit other pages of our website and listen to John’s appearance on podcasts related to this topic for more information.
However, in a brief summary, we’ll mention an active duty service member could realize 75% of his or her base pay on retiring after 30 years. His or her spouse would be entitled to receive 50% of that pay upon divorce, assuming they were married for the entire 30 years. The calculation is more complicated whenever the non-service member spouse is married to the service-member for less than 100% of the service member’s career.
For example, the military retirement division upon divorce is more complex when service members marry after joining the military; in these cases, a former spouse is only entitled to half the retirement pay for those years of the marriage and service overlapping, not the member’s entire service. Knowing these differences is key to ensuring spouses and service members receive fair treatment in the military divorce settlement.
7. Understands the Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP)
In the late 1980s, Congress changed the nature of the SBP to prevent service members from declining this benefit and gambling that he or she would outlive their spouse. Now, only the spouse can decline this benefit, a decision that can have serious implications on military divorce.
To illustrate, under the Former Spouses Protection Act, SBP can be included as part of a divorce settlement. Many times, the dependent spouse seeks a court order that directs the service member to ensure enrollment in SBP. But an divorce attorney not familiar with SBP may not have the knowledge to ensure this benefit for the dependent spouse. The wording of the order that divides the military retirement pay is therefore critical, as well as the timing of reporting the same to DFAS.
8. Can Provide Guidance on Health Insurance
Many dependent spouses want to know what will happen to their health insurance coverage once the military divorce is settled, meaning they want to know how to get insurance once their coverage under the Military Health System terminates. These individuals can enroll in a temporary care plan designed to assist in these situations.
Stipulations apply – you must, for instance, enroll within 60 days after separation – and quarterly premiums are due. Military divorce lawyers can help you successfully navigate this system.
Additionally, many non-service member spouses wrongly assume they are entitled to continued healthcare coverage upon divorce, i.e. Tricare coverage; however, the non-service member spouse is only entitled to Tricare for life, if they were married to the service member for twenty years of overlapping marriage and military service.
9. Establishes Boundaries
Many spouses try to negotiate military divorce proceedings with each other but end up arguing. Your military divorce lawyer can negotiate for you and establish boundaries so you don’t spend every waking moment bickering with your spouse. He or she can also ensure you don’t make promises that can’t be kept and protect your interests.
If you live in Oklahoma City, Edmond, or central Oklahoma in general and are considering a military divorce, don’t gamble with the outcome. Speak to an experienced professional today who knows the law and will work for you. For a free case evaluation, call Cannon & Associates in Edmond, OK, today.