The laws surrounding divorce are always complex, but they are even more intricate when one spouse is in the military. There are several types of retirement benefits, healthcare options, and other assets to consider, so you’ll need the help of a competent military divorce attorney who is familiar with both the federal laws and divorce laws in Oklahoma.
Fortunately, many spouses of service members are entitled to some retirement pay and a form of healthcare, at least for a year after the military divorce. What’s more, you may be able to keep your Survivor Benefit Plan even if you’re no longer married. However, you’ll lose your right to live in military housing, and unless you’ve been married for a long time, you might not have long-term access to healthcare. Let’s examine the laws surrounding these issues.
What Are Military Divorce Benefits in Oklahoma?
When you get divorced from a member of the military, you are likely to receive some of their assets, particularly if you have been married to them for a long time and they have been serving for many years. However, the divorce process can be very complex because there may be many different types of assets, such as retired pay, a healthcare plan, a Thrift Savings Plan, disability payments, and a Survivor Benefit Plan.
If the service member in question has worked in the military for more than 20 years, they are entitled to a monthly payment that is based on their wages when they were employed by the military. This retirement pay is often worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it can be the most valuable asset that the servicemember possesses. In a military divorce, you may be entitled to some of this payment, particularly if you were earning less or being supported by your military spouse.
Even if the service member isn’t receiving the payment yet, the retirement pay asset can be split up between the parties. Military retirement pay can also be garnished to satisfy payments such as child support or alimony, no matter how long you’ve been married.
Survivor Benefit Plan
Retirement pay generally ends once the spouse who was employed by the military passes away, but Survivor Benefit pay allows their dependents to be paid out an annuity. This usually applies to the spouse, but it can also include the children. The monthly income is adjusted by inflation and usually lasts for the rest of the beneficiary’s lifetime, so it’s worth protecting during a military divorce.
You may be able to keep your SBP rights even after you have separated from your partner, but you’ll have to secure them because you will otherwise become ineligible. A family law attorney can help to make sure you retain your rights and gain the maximum payment possible.
A big concern for many people getting divorced from a military service member is healthcare because this is such a valuable asset. It’s important to know that court orders stating you are eligible for healthcare benefits are not valid if the federal government determines the spouse is not entitled to the benefit. For this reason, it’s important that you hire a military divorce lawyer who knows all of the regulations surrounding military separation and divorce.
After your divorce, you will be covered by the Continued Health Care Benefit Program for three years. This coverage replaces Tricare, and it is designed to give you time to adjust and find alternative options such as a civilian health plan. You will only be able to benefit from this if the spouse remains unmarried and you also received either SBP or a share of the servicemember’s retirement pay.
20/20/20 and 20/20/15
Some spouses will keep Tricare, but this is only the case if you were married for 20 years, the service member worked for the military for 20 years, and there was an overlap of at least 20 years, i.e. only a small percentage of parties are entitled to this benefit. As long as the spouse remains unmarried, you will still be eligible for your Tricare health benefits. If there were only 15 years of overlap, you will be entitled to just one year of Tricare, so you’ll need to look for other options much sooner.
Many members of the military also have a Thrift Savings Plan, which is like a retirement account that lets them pay in 7% of their wages. The government then tops this up with another 5%. You will receive a part of this, as it is divisible. However, if the service member was receiving disability payments from the VA, these are not considered a divisible asset, so you will not be able to benefit from them. Sometimes, they can be garnished for child support or alimony.
You are also not entitled to keep living in military housing after your military divorce in Oklahoma City. Non-service member spouses have to leave these types of accommodation within 30 days of the military divorce being finalized.
Getting a Fair Military Divorce Settlement
As you can see, there are many different rules and regulations, so divorcing a military service member can be a very complex process. It’s virtually impossible to fight your case on your own since the federal and Oklahoma laws are so involved.
To make sure you get a fair settlement and you and your children are well taken care of, you should always hire a military divorce attorney who can help you navigate the process. They will know how to help you obtain the assets you need to live a financially stable life after your divorce.
Your Initial Consultation
When you’re ready to get the process started, find a highly qualified and experienced attorney in your area. Make sure that they have taken on divorce cases involving members of the military before and that they have been successful. Then, you can ask for an in-person initial consultation, so you can get to know the divorce attorney. Ask yourself whether they are a good fit for you personally and whether you like their communication style.
During the first meeting, your lawyer will speak to you about which assets are most important to you and what you’d like your life after the divorce to look like. They will also let you know which laws apply to your case and what kind of outcome you can expect. To make sure you get a fair settlement, they will ask you to provide evidence and disclose details of your financial and personal situation.Knowlege is power and your military divorce attorney will be better prepared to fight for your interested, if they have all the information about your marriage and your military service or your spouse’s military service.
Military divorce in Oklahoma City is tough as there are so many different factors to consider. Not only does the length of service matter, but also how long you were married and what types of assets your spouse owns. While you’re likely to receive some retired pay and short-term healthcare benefits, you won’t be able to stay in your military home, and most spouses no longer have access to Tricare.
The best way to make sure you receive a fair share of your former spouse’s assets is to get in touch with a family law attorney who has a lot of experience with similar cases. Both the federal regulations and the Oklahoma divorce laws need to be considered, so your lawyer should be familiar with the process of divorcing a military servicemember. Get in touch with us at Cannon & Associates in Edmond, OK to book your initial consultation with one of our top divorce lawyers.